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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.