Better for Boston: Erik Bedard or Rich Harden?
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.