SEATTLE -- After weeks of delays, denials, flights and physicals, the Seattle Mariners have their ace.
"It's a great feeling," Erik Bedard said Friday afternoon, with a small smile.
The shy left-hander, Baltimore's opening-day starter last season, appeared relieved after escaping the Orioles' massive rebuilding project. Baltimore received Seattle's top outfielder prospect Adam Jones, left-handed reliever George Sherrill and three minor league pitchers in the protracted, five-for-one deal.
"I know it seems like a long time coming, but these are high-stakes deals. And we are getting one hell of a player," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said.
The Orioles were happy, too, though with Bedard gone, they don't have an ace or even someone that's a lock to pitch on opening day. Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen are the top candidates, and Daniel Cabrera might be given consideration.
But they get the speedy, powerful Jones, a top pick in 2003 who was to start in right field for Seattle this season but will start in center for Baltimore instead. They get Sherrill to potentially replace the injured Chris Ray as closer, though Sherrill has been a one- or two-batter specialist and hasn't closed since 2005, at Triple-A.
Baltimore also extracted two more prospects than Bavasi initially wanted to give, according to Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
"We agreed to three names fairly quickly," MacPhail said from Baltimore. "But getting the fourth and fifth out of him was like getting water out of a stone.
"We traded one of the game's best young left-handed pitchers, but in exchange we think we improved the long-term outlook for the Baltimore Orioles. There aren't too many five-for-one trades anymore. We are delighted to have all five in the system," he said.
The 28-year-old Bedard becomes the staff ace for a perceived contender. He will lead a staff consisting of 21-year-old Felix Hernandez, veteran holdovers Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn and recently signed free agent Carlos Silva.
"We have a good, solid, five-man staff, maybe as good as there is," Bavasi said.
Bedard graciously tried to defer ace status to Hernandez, Seattle's opening-day starter last season who has been affected by the meteoric expectations placed upon him.
"No, I don't care whether it's No. 1, No. 2 or No. 5, as long as I don't get skipped," Bedard said, chuckling.
Given what the Mariners gave up to get him -- 19-year-old Chris Tillman was Seattle's minor-league pitcher of the year in 2007 and 20-year-old Tony Butler was considered one of the franchise's top young arms -- Bedard is their No. 1 guy. Seattle also sent 23-year-old right-hander Kam Mickolio, considered a middle reliever.
Bedard was relieved after weeks of sitting at home in Ontario, Canada, waiting for word on where to report for spring training.
Bavasi said he had the framework for the deal in place on Jan. 24. He said the delay was over details such as the Orioles' scouring the Mariners' medical files on their incoming players.
MacPhail said there was a snag in the deal that needed league clarification, likely the fallout of the 22-year-old Jones naively telling a reporter in Venezuela on Jan. 27 he was headed to Baltimore to take a physical, signaling that a trade was in the works. But that physical did not occur until this week.
"We had a hiccup on the 27th and we had to go back with MLB to make sure certain safeguards were in place for both sides," MacPhail said.
Now, all's well, especially for Bedard. He is excited to be out of Baltimore.
"That's the big thing. With Baltimore, it seemed like we were always going backward," said Bedard, who had a team-record 221 strikeouts and allowed a league-low 6.97 hits per nine innings last season.
"When I first got there it was fun, because we were signing a lot of guys and were looking forward to competing with Boston and New York. It all went downhill from there," he said.
Except for him. A four-year veteran, Bedard was 28-16 with a 3.47 ERA over the last two seasons. Now, he is primed to earn at least $6 million in an arbitration hearing scheduled in the coming days. He could get tens of millions more in a multiyear contract Seattle has already started to discuss with Bedard's representatives. He is under Seattle's control for at least the next two seasons.
He said the Orioles never made a true effort to sign him to a long-term contract; MacPhail said Bedard never wanted to stay.
"I made an inquiry early with Erik's representatives," MacPhail said. "They were polite, but I certainly got the sense that their preference at the current time was to take it on a short-term basis."
In Seattle, Horacio Ramirez, a flop in the rotation last season, moves to long relief. Brandon Morrow, a thrilling rookie in 2007 who was being groomed for the rotation in '08, will return to the bullpen.