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Better for Boston: Erik Bedard or Rich Harden?

Jul 29, 2011, 12:39 AM EDT

Erik Bedard AP

It seems like these gambles don’t usually work out for the Red Sox.  John Smoltz was a huge bust.  Brad Penny was even worse.  Bartolo Colon.  Wade Miller.  And one can extend it to the bullpen with Eric Gagne.  When the Red Sox decide to gamble on the perceived injury-prone/high-upside pitcher, it’s typically proven to be a bust.

So now Boston is chasing Erik Bedard and Rich Harden, according to various reports.  Both certainly fit in with the pitchers above.  After missing 2010, Bedard has come back to post a 3.00 ERA and strike out 85 in 90 innings for the Mariners this season.  Of course, those 90 innings are the most he’s thrown since 2007 and he’s missed the last four weeks with a sprained left knee (though he is returning tonight).

Harden has made just five starts after missing the first three months with a strained lat muscle.  He’s been pretty good, probably better than his 4.30 ERA suggests.  He’s struck out 30 and walked just 10 in 29 1/3 innings, which is a big step forward from his 2010, when he finished with a 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings for the Rangers.

Both Bedard and Harden have made 30 starts in a season exactly once (Bedard in 2006, Harden in 2004).  Harden has had the superior track record of health in recent years, but Bedard has the better stuff of the two when healthy.

There’s also the matter of price: the Mariners will likely want considerably more for Bedard than the A’s will for Harden.  They have probably have a better chance of re-signing Bedard for next year than the A’s do with Harden.

But both offer the tantalizing possibility of a rotation upgrade at a fraction of the cost of an Ubaldo Jimenez.  And the Red Sox can afford to gamble, given that they’re 2 1/2 games in front of the Yankees and 7 1/2 games up on the Angels in the wild card.  They don’t really need someone to help them get through the regular season; they want someone who might, if things break right, be a big-time threat in the postseason.

And I think that’s more Bedard’s department.  Harden is throwing better than he did at any point of last year, but his arsenal isn’t nearly what it was when he broke into the league and his history of command woes are scary.  Bedard, unlike Harden, has never been healthy and bad; he has a 3.34 ERA since 2006.  He won’t come cheap, but if he could be had for either Kyle Weiland or Felix Doubront, along with a lesser prospect, it’d be a gamble worth taking for Boston.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    Bedard would be the way to go in my opinion. As you said both are likely to get hurt, but Bedard has a bigger upside. That and he is left handed. My personal philosophy when it comes to pitchers is when in doubt go with the south paw.

    • hittfamily - Jul 29, 2011 at 6:34 AM

      Mine is go with the Veteran.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:20 AM

        That’s a good one too. Even better is a veteran lefty. Preferably one who is crafty.

  2. shawnuel - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    Huh…Doubront or Weiland. Because pitching has been such an issue with the Mariners. I’d think Lavarnway or Kalish are what Zduriencik has his eye on. Lavarnway would be cosmic payback for Varitek all those years ago.

  3. Jack Marshall - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:11 AM

    All the bad luck with injury gambles is to make up for Luis Tiant, who was still worth all of them. Bret Saberhagen worked out all right too.

  4. Mark Armour - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    Billy Wagner paid off well.

  5. derpdederpdederp - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    forget this, Theo should trade the farm for Ubaldo. he’s already opened up the Red Sox’s wallet and put together the most fearsome offence n the league. could you imagine a team led by the offence they have plus Jimenez and Lester at the front of the rotation? unreal

  6. marinersnate - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    My bias is probably showing, but I think Bedard is the better pitcher. Badard’s pitching has never been the problem, it is only the question of can he stay healthy.

    With that said, I think the M’s are asking too much for the guy. A B-level prospect should be more than enough for a two month rental of a guy that can’t stay on the field. No crime in setting your sights high and than settling low, I guess. But if he can stay healthy he could be huge to a team in the playoffs. My gut feeling is that he is in Boston by Sunday.

  7. bosoxfan1950 - Jul 29, 2011 at 4:32 AM

    I like them both, even more so when I keep hearing the “stutter-step waltz” about Buchholz. If we need two starters and can get a way with trading only Doubront and Weuland plus a second or third tier prospect or two, I’d pull the trigger in a heart beat. Methinks if Buccholz is lost for the season, I’d even dig deeper for Jimenez and one of these two. And I still think we need an arm or two to replace Williams and Morales. But, I could be wrong.

  8. uyf1950 - Jul 29, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    Both of these guys remind me of when you were trying to pick a team as a kid and there were 2 players left and you didn’t want either one you would choose: eenie, meenie miney, mo.

    • Ari Collins - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:20 AM

      Worked out pretty well with Colon and Garcia.

      • uyf1950 - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:57 AM

        Yes it did. Apparently Cashman has a better eye for reclamation projects than Epstein.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM

        I’ll give you that he had a better eye this year. Historically, they both kind of suck at it.

        Of course, historically, neither needs to give too many roster spots to reclamation projects, fortunately.

  9. proudlycanadian - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    They are both Canadians, so you can’t go wrong with either. Actually, I find Bedard frustrating to watch. He seems to take forever to throw the ball. I prefer watching Harden, but do not trust his injury history at all.

  10. Ari Collins - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    I guess Bedard. I think Harden is more likely to stay healthy (wow, did I actually write that), but despite Harden’s excellent performance this year, Bedard has more upside.

    Jimenez uber alles, though.

  11. dirtyharry1971 - Jul 29, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    the real title of this should be “what would you rather? Have your leg cut off or your arm?” Cause lets face it you can’t count on either guy to stay healthy for more then 5 starts so whats the use? I hope they go out and get both of them!

  12. clavette - Jul 29, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    lavarnway isnt going anywhere

  13. Glenn - Jul 29, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Just which team actually has a good percentage of success with old, injured pitchers? What is the overall success rate across baseball? Even the Yankee’s luck with Colon and Garcia seems to be running out. I think that Theo is just into the low risk and potentially high reward of such a strategy more than most GMs – and he happens to work for a team that can afford the “ante” so to speak.

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