CHICAGO — If it’s any consolation, the Red Sox [team stats] acquired the consolation prize to the consolation prize yesterday. Minutes before the trade deadline, they acquired Seattle Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, a supremely talented pitcher who nonetheless has been dogged by makeup and durability questions.
To say he was the Red Sox’ first choice would be inaccurate. Last week they inquired on Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, with the former a more realistic target until he declined to waive his no-trade clause.
Then on Saturday night, the Sox dealt for oft-injured Oakland Athletics righty Rich Harden. But that trade collapsed due to Harden’s understandably poor medicals. So here we are today with Bedard, a former AL East foe with the Baltimore Orioles who has been effective when healthy . . . but never seems to be healthy.
Bedard is 55-48 for his career with a 3.69 ERA, numbers that hint at his prodigious talent. If only they were the whole story. His next start will be his first in August since 2007. He has averaged 15 starts since 2008, and that’s not including 2010, which he missed in its entirety while recovering from labrum surgery.
That injury typically spells the end of a pitcher’s career, or at least his effectiveness. Bedard is trying to become one of the few exceptions (Curt Schilling [stats] is the most notable). He’s 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA this season. He made 16 starts for the Mariners covering 911⁄3 innings, striking out an impressive 87.
The question is if he’ll be able to perform at that level in Boston. Jim Duquette, an executive with the Orioles when Bedard had the best season of his career in 2007 (13-5, 3.16 ERA, fifth in the AL Cy Young voting), told the Herald’s Scott Lauber that the left-hander is not meant for a high-pressure environment and disclosed that he has actually advised big-market teams against signing the pitcher.
“Maybe he lets his arm do the talking, which is fine with us,” general manager Theo Epstein said. “Based on what we know, he fits in fine with his teammates. There are lots of labels in baseball. We’ve found those labels aren’t always accurate.”
Having only pitched in Baltimore and Seattle, Bedard deserves a chance to show what he can do here. But his acclimation will be one issue worth following, particularly since the notoriously media-averse pitcher suddenly will be surrounded by one of the league’s biggest press corps. Some guys have a hard time adjusting to the unwanted attention. Another starter, John Lackey, still is figuring it out in his second season.
“I’m sure he’s going to be excited,” pitching coach Curt Young said. “You come to a situation where you’re in contention, every game means something, and he’s going to find out it’s a great place to play.”
At the very least, Bedard represents a short-term upgrade over yesterday’s starter, lefty Andrew Miller, who again danced on the precipice of disaster. He limited the White Sox to three runs while striking out eight in 52⁄3 innings, but he allowed 10 hits in the 5-3 victory and reinforced the notion that while he may have a bright future, the future is not now.
The price for Bedard was four minor leaguers, including Double-A catcher Tim Federowicz and promising outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang. But Epstein has an exemplary track record when it comes to the prospects surrendered in similar deals, with pitcher Cla Meredith for catcher Doug Mirabelli [stats] being the exception.
The prospects involved were minor because the deal was minor. Relative to the other AL contenders, the Red Sox did more than Yankees, who were silent, but less than the Cleveland Indians (Jimenez) and Texas Rangers (stud relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara), who each improved dramatically.
Here’s the good news: The Red Sox didn’t need to do much. They just finished the best July (20-6) in team history. They’ve won a club-record seven straight road series. They have the best record in the AL.
Upgrading the rotation in light of Clay Buchholz’ back injury would have been great, but even if Bedard gives them nothing, they remain legitimate contenders.