Well, if we can't believe a blog's account of a foreign reporter's conversation with a 22-year-old, then we've really suffered an erosion of trust in America.
It seems like the long-rumored Erik Bedard-Adam Jones trade may have finally happened, though neither the Orioles nor Mariners have confirmed any such thing as of this writing. On Sunday night, the Seattle Times posted an entry with the following headline on their Mariners blog: "Bedard-Jones deal going down." Jones apparently left his Venezuelan team, Cardenales de Lara, during the winter league finals, possibly to return to the U.S., maybe for a physical in Baltimore.
A reporter with Diario Panorama spoke with the outfielder, and Jones' comments were unambiguous: "(Bill Bavasi) called me yesterday and told me the news. I've got to go to Baltimore tomorrow morning and handle things there. I'm the centerpiece of the deal on the Mariners side. It's an honor to get traded for such a highly talented pitcher as Bedard."
If this thing isn't done, it's at least very close – so close, in fact, that we should consider the fantasy implications.
Bedard was already a top 10 fantasy starter in virtually everyone's rankings, and he's currently fifth at his position in ADP at Mock Draft Central (42.2). The left-hander is getting selected immediately after Brandon Webb (38.5) and Josh Beckett (41.2) during a mini-run on starters in Round 4. It's remarkable that Bedard has been drafted so early, all things considered. The Orioles bullpen hierarchy isn't clear, their projected batting order is terminally unimpressive, and, of course, they face a murderous schedule in the A.L. East. The Yankees and Red Sox were first and third in the league in runs scored in 2007.
But Bedard's ADP already reflected a trade to a better pitching environment. All those mock-drafters taking Bedard with pick 42 were never really thinking of him as an Orioles starter. Thus, you shouldn't expect a dramatic change in ADP. A trade to Seattle doesn't bump Bedard into Round 3, and it certainly won't elevate him to Santana/Peavy territory.
Still, it's unquestionably a good move, fantasy-wise. The ballpark is more pitcher-friendly, the bullpen is better, the run support should improve, and the opponents aren't as threatening. Bedard is clearly more valuable as a Mariners starter, and this should justify his current ADP. If you didn't have him in your top five, it's time to move him there.
The biggest knock against Bedard is that he's never pitched 200 innings in any Major League season. He did, however, pitch 196.1 in 2006 and 182 in 2007. More importantly, at least for fantasy purposes, he has 392 strikeouts over the past two seasons. In his final 10 starts last year, he went 7-1 with a 0.91 WHIP and he recorded double-digit Ks four times.
This trade (or near trade, or potentially non-trade) certainly doesn't hurt Jones' fantasy value. As outfield prospects go, Jones isn't Jay Bruce, Baseball America's 2007 Minor League Player of the Year, and he's not Justin Upton – but he's not much further down the list. In 420 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma last season, Jones had 27 doubles, 25 home runs, eight steals in 15 attempts, and he hit .314/.382/.586. Jones would move to a more hitter-friendly park – and a much more HR-friendly park – while batting closer to the heart of the order.
At this point in his development, it would be a surprise if Jones was anything less than a very good Major League outfielder. He was successful at Triple-A at ages 20 and 21, so there's really nothing left to prove there. Jones has short-term 20/20 potential, and he's a career .291 hitter in the minors. He's actually gone undrafted more than 85 percent of the time at MDC, which seems wrong. Jones is exactly the sort of player you should take a flier on in public leagues. When the free agent pool is going to be deep, take risks and draft talent.
After dealing Jones, Seattle would have a rather conspicuous need for an outfielder. The Seattle Times has reported that the M's "have a one-year deal with free-agent Brad Wilkerson in their back pocket," pending a Bedard trade. If this falls through, 23-year-old Wladimir Balentien might enter the discussion. He's hit 71 HR over his previous three minor league seasons, but he's also struck out an astonishing 405 times. Balentien is also only one year removed from a .230/.337/.435 season at Double-A.
A few different versions of the Bedard-Jones deal have been reported and rumored, and so far nearly all of them involve veteran left-hander George Sherrill and 19-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Chris Tillman. Like every other living Oriole, Sherrill would have to be considered a candidate for saves in Baltimore. Tillman struck out 139 batters in 135.2 Single-A innings last year, but he also walked 61. He's a non-factor in fantasy leagues this year and likely next. If the final piece of this trade is Single-A shortstop Carlos Triunfel, who doesn't turn 18 until February, then this would really be a fairly nice haul for Baltimore.
Basically, the only clear losers in a Bedard-Jones deal are the Cardenales, and anyone who happened to draft Adam Jones in the Venezuelan Winter League Fantasy Playoff Challenge.