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When the Red Sox acquired Erik Bedard in the remaining minutes of the trade deadline it seemed likely the left-handed Canadian was a rental who helped clear some space on the 40-man roster. Unlike the Victor Martinez and Jason Bay, Bedard will probably not qualify for free agent compensation. Of course, the team can always offer salary arbitration, and, should Bedard sign with another team, perhaps even returning to the Mariners, Boston could still receive a draft pick. Bedard has made five starts in a Red Sox uniform, and phrases like “playoff rotation” are start to appear in conversation as the season enters its final month. Could the pitcher have found a new home in Boston?
Erik Bedard is a pitcher the Red Sox know well. Having come up with the AL East rival Baltimore Orioles, Bedard and Boston crossed paths many times before discussing a trade with the Seattle Mariners. He had faced the Sox thirteen times before the trade. In those starts, the he’d Boston to a collective collective .205/.311/.209 batting line. For his career against everyone, the success has been good as well: .243/.316/.365, with similar dominance against lefties (.237/.336/.342) and righties (.244/.310/.372). He has averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a K:BB of 2.51 during his eight seasons in the majors. If Bedard had pitched more than about 80 innings in each of 2008 and 2009 and had not missed all of the 2010 season, his departure from Seattle would have been as big a trade his his arrival.
In his five starts for Boston the lefty has gone 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA. He has only totalled 26 innings, not going deep into games, but has punched out 26 batters. With Clay Buchholz unavailable, Tim Wakefield struggling and John Lackey putting together a run of solid mediocrity rather than A.J. Burnett-esque failure, Bedard’s talents are still a welcome addition to the starting five.
The Mariners were able to sign Bedard for just $1 million last winter, with $6.5 million in performance incentives, putting his salary this season in the same range as 2008, 2009 and 2010. Given that he spent time on the disabled list already this year and, as reported by Nick Cafardo, experienced some discomfort in that knee last night, Bedard will likely once again be available for less than $10 million on a one-season deal.
At the top of the rotation, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey are all under contract for 2012. The team has a club option for Andrew Miller. Tim Wakefield, still searching for his 200th win may retire at the end of this season, but could decide to give one more year to his baseball career. Alfredo Aceves, the other option for a long-man/sixth starter will still be under team control. This is where things get a little tricky.
While Bedard is easily the best among these options, he has to be considered an injury risk. Although his pitching ability has been largely unaffected, Erik Bedard simply cannot be penciled in for 200, or even 150, innings of work. While the Red Sox will usually prefer to spend more money to guarantee fewer years, as evidenced by the John Smoltz and Brad Penny signings, the team is already without Daisuke Matsuzaka for 2012. Matsuzaka is slated to make $10 million, assuming he does not somehow trigger one of his bonuses.
With Bedard putting up his highest innings total in several years, he may seek a deal with more than one guaranteed year, and given his ability, perhaps a team will give him what he seeks. Given his rehab process, there is no reason to believe Buchholz will not be fully recovered by spring training. Can the team retain Miller and resign Wakefield while letting Bedard have first crack at the remaining spot in the starting rotation? It’s a tricky question because if he’s healthy, the Red Sox could once again enter the season with a very strong starting five.