Perhaps the biggest question mark of the offseason for the Orioles is what to do with ace starter Erik Bedard. Any team would like to have Erik Bedard start at the front of their rotation after last season. He had his breakout campaign, and on a inning-by-inning basis he was probably the best pitcher in the American League.
But the decision to keep him is not an easy one. He will be a free agent after 2009, meaning the Orioles have him under their control for only two more seasons - and at least next season looks to be another season far removed from contention. While his production was stellar last season, it may represent a high water mark. Of course not reaching last year's heights isn't a damning indictment, but at 29 and having never thrown 200 innings in a season, there are still question marks surrounding Bedard.
If you try to decipher what Andy MacPhail has said in recent weeks, it seems that resigning Bedard would be the first option. A fair contract would likely be in the 4 year, $60M range.
And that's at the very upper limit. Break that down as $20M for the last two arbitration years (Carlos Zambrano pocketed $18.9M) and $20M to buy out each of his first two seasons of free agency. And that's assuming health and consistency as a top 5 pitcher in the AL. Something like 4/$50M might be more in line with Bedard's value, even though he likely wouldn't sign for that amount.
The more attractive option might be to trade Bedard for a package of three premium prospects, if indeed someone is willing to offer that in a winter where the free agent market is devoid of quality pitching. Any contract to Bedard will pay a premium to him based on having been signed when his value is highest. Such a contract will put almost all of the risk on the Orioles, something that should be cause for concern. Either course of action is defensible, but for the first time, I find myself leaning towards raking in multiple young players in return for Bedard.