Better for Boston: Erik Bedard or Rich Harden?

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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.

Magic Johnson says the Dodgers will win the World Series

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Baseball, as we so often note around here, is unpredictable. Especially when it comes to the playoffs. You can be the best team in the land for six months but a few bad days can end your season once October hits.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the regular season but lost the ALCS to the Yankees, four games to one. In 1906 the Cubs won 116 games in a 152-game season and lost the World Series. In 1954 the Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and lost the World Series. In 1931 the Philadelphia A’s won 107 games and lost the World Series.

More recently, with the advent of expanded playoffs, the chances for the team with the best record to win the World Series have been pretty dang terrible. Since the beginning of the wild card era, only five times has the team with the game’s best record gone on to win the World Series: The 1998 and 2009 Yankees, the 2007 and 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. That’s it.

At the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record. They’re 71-31 and sit 12 games up in their division. Their playoff chances are almost 100%. The above examples notwithstanding, if you had to make a prediction as to who might win the World Series, it would not be unreasonable to pick the Dodgers. Sure, you’d want to make sure they got Clayton Kershaw back by early September or thereabouts to make it a safer prediction, but it’d be a totally defensible pick. Maybe even the one most people make.

But it’d be the utmost in magical thinking to presume that one could make such a prediction with any degree of certainty, right? The Los Angeles Times, however, passes along some Magical thinking:

Magic Johnson called his shot Thursday night, and he wasn’t shy about it. The Dodgers’ co-owner did not hesitate when he predicted how the team would finish this year.

“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year,” Johnson said. “This is our year.”

The headline calls it a “guarantee.” I don’t know if I’d call it that — I think it’s more of a confident prediction — but it is a bold statement whatever you call it.

If I had to pick one team at the moment — and we could assume a healthy Clayton Kershaw — I suppose I would make them my World Series favorites too. And, yes, if I had an ownership interest in the Dodgers, I’d probably say what Johnson said.

But given the example of history, I think “field” would be a much safer bet.

Mariners trade Steve Cishek to the Rays for swingman Erasmo Ramirez.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired reliever Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

Cishek had appeared in 23 games this season for Seattle after recovering from major offseason hip surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, with a 15/7 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s a setup man right now, but he has experience as a closer, saving 25 games for Seattle last year and as many as 39 back when he pitched for the Marlins in 2014.

Ramirez has appeared in 26 games for the Rays and has started eight games. He’s 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 55/16 K/BB ratio in 69.1 innings. This will be his second stint with the Mariners, having played for them from 2012-14.

Sort of a surprising deal given that both Tampa Bay and Seattle are competing for a wild card spot, but needs are needs.