Bedard, Orioles exchange figures

Bedard, Orioles exchange figures

Erik Bedard's future with the Orioles may grow more uncertain with each passing rumor, but his place among baseball's elite starting pitchers is seemingly secure.

His pay scale, however, isn't -- at least not yet.

Bedard and fellow starter Daniel Cabrera exchanged monetary figures with the Orioles on Friday, the last step before presenting their cases at a salary-arbitration hearing next month. The two sides have until that time to try to work out new contracts on their own, before an arbitration panel makes a binding ruling on one-year deals for both players.

This is nothing new for Bedard, who filed for arbitration last winter before independently agreeing to a one-year, $3.4 million deal after the start of Spring Training. This time he's eyeing even more money -- he asked for $8 million and the Orioles countered with an offer of $6 million -- and for good reason.

Bedard launched his star into baseball's elite level last summer, winning 13 games for the Orioles with a 3.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts. If not for an oblique strain ending his season prematurely, he likely would have led the American League in strikeouts and been among the top contenders for the AL Cy Young Award.

"It would've been great for him," manager Dave Trembley said just after the team shut Bedard down for the season. "It would've been great for our team for him to get something like that. But there will be another time. There will be another time for him, I'm sure. I think he's still going to get better."

But not necessarily with the Orioles. Bedard's name has been linked with everyone from the Mariners, Mets, Indians and Reds this offseason, and he could yet join one of those clubs before the start of Spring Training. He's considered a cheaper alternative to this year's top Hot Stove prize, Johan Santana, though Bedard would still command a healthy package of top prospects in return.

Talk of Bedard signing a long-term deal with the Orioles has always been a factor, though the overwhelming odds seem to point toward a trade -- not necessarily now, but at least sometime before he hits the free-agent market in 2009.

Hot Stove

If Bedard does stay, he'll rejoin Cabrera in a strong young rotation that also includes former first-round Draft picks Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie. Cabrera finished last season with a 9-18 record and a 5.55 ERA, his worst numbers since joining the big leagues in 2004.

Last season, Cabrera avoided arbitration by signing a $1.83 million deal, and he's asked for a raise to $3.3 million this summer. The Orioles countered with an offer of $2.6 million.

Unless the two sides can meet in the middle, Cabrera -- like Bedard -- will go to arbitration and hope for the best. His job is to prove his worth. Baltimore's job is the opposite.

"It's always hard," Bedard said after avoiding arbitration last winter. "Obviously, you're not going to take everything seriously. But some things I'm sure they would've said would've stuck forever. That's hard to forget, but we didn't go through that process and I'm happy for it."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.