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Thursday, January 31, 2008
Updated: February 1, 8:31 AM ET
Sources: Bedard trade might clear major hurdle

By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine

The Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles were looking to finally sort through a rules issue Thursday afternoon, taking the next step forward to completing their long-discussed deal involving left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard.

Second-Half Surge

Erik Bedard was good in his first 14 starts of 2007 but he was absolutely great in his second 14 starts.

First 14 starts Last 14
W-L 4-4 9-1
ERA 3.72 2.65
H per 9 8.4 5.7
K per 9 10.7 11.2

The Mariners and the Orioles came close to completing the deal last weekend: Bedard for center fielder Adam Jones, pitchers George Sherrill, Chris Tillman and Tony Butler, as well as another player. The conversations progressed to the point that the Mariners informed two players central in the deal -- Jones and Sherrill -- that they needed to go to Baltimore for physical examinations.

When Jones was quoted as saying the deal was completed, this created a rules question, sources say: If the Jones went for his physical examination, would the Orioles then be beholden to accept him, even if the physical exam did not go well?

The Orioles have asked the Mariners for written language that Seattle will submit Jones and Sherrill for a physical examination by the Orioles -- and if they pass physicals, then and only then will Baltimore be obligated to finish the trade. The inherent risk for the Mariners is that if either Jones or Sherrill were to flunk their physicals in Baltimore, then the respective value of the players would be diminished within the industry.

Jones, 22, is regarded by scouts and executives with other teams as a rising star. "He's going to be a monster," said an AL talent evaluator. "If you put he and Nick Markakis in the same outfield, that is the start of something."

Bedard could help to make the Mariners' rotation formidable, joining Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista.

Jones had been scheduled to be the Mariners' starting right fielder this season, replacing the departed Jose Guillen. But the arrival of Brad Wilkerson, who Seattle acquired Thursday and who can play all three outfield positions plus first base, suggests Jones may finally be on his way to Baltimore instead, and that Wilkerson may be in right field when Seattle begins its season March 31 against the Rangers.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.