Early on in the offseason, I declared Erick Bedard one of four players the Yankees shouldn’t even think about signing over the winter. It had nothing to do with Bedard as a pitcher because there’s simply no denying his performance, instead it had everything to do with his health. He had two shoulder surgeries in 2008 and made just 30 starts total from 2008 through 2010, including zero last season. There was every reason to be skeptical this past winter.
Through the first two and a half months of the season, Bedard hasn’t just stayed healthy, he’s stayed healthy and performed well. His 3.80 FIP is almost exactly league average, and he’s striking out 8.36 men per nine innings while walking just 2.96 per nine, the same kind of numbers he put up in his prime. Given the Yankees perpetual need for pitching, it’s worth seeing if Bedard would be a fit in the Bronx…
- When you’re talking about a strikeout heavy lefty, the upside is obvious. Bedard’s strikeout rate has been north of eight per nine for years now, covering both healthy seasons and those impacted by injury.
- He misses bats with one of the game’s best curveballs, a pitch that drops more than ten vertical inches and sits in the high-70’s. Bedard’s fastball velocity is surprisingly good given the shoulder issue, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. A changeup and cutter rounds out a solid repertoire, though that last pitch is just a show-me offering.
- Bedard has a slight platoon split but nothing crazy: righties have a .323 wOBA off him this season, lefties .290. The good news is that Yankee Stadium is tougher on right-handed hitters, and Bedard’s split plays right into that.
- Not only is Bedard’s salary dirt cheap (just $1M), the extra $6.35M he could earn in incentives is reasonable as well.
- I already talked about the big one, the injuries. One of those two shoulder surgeries repaired a debridement and removed a cyst, the other took care of a torn labrum. Bedard also missed time with a quad strain (2009), hip inflammation (2008), an oblique strain (2007), a knee strain (2005), and Tommy John surgery (2002). All but the quad required a DL stint. That’s some serious stuff.
- Bedard was a ground ball guy once upon a time, but over the last few years he’s around 42% ground balls. That’s not awful, but it does lead to a lot of homeruns. He’s given up nine in 70 IP this year (1.16 HR/9) and 26 in 234 IP as a Mariner (exactly one per nine). Remember, Safeco Field is not exactly hitter friendly.
- Bedard has a reputation of being very rude and standoffish when dealing with the media, occasionally blowing them off entirely, something that absolutely won’t fly in New York. He’s also made it no secret that he prefers to play in smaller markets after growing up in the small town of Navan, Ontario (outside of Ottawa).
The wrench here is that the Mariners are actually within striking distance of the AL West crown. They’re just two games back of the Rangers in the loss column and have won 16 of their last 25 games. Justin Smoak has developed into a strong hitter, Dustin Ackley’s promotion is right around the corner, Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda are fronting the rotation … there’s a non-zero chance Seattle hangs around long enough and goes for it rather than sell off parts.
Otherwise, there’s plenty of stuff to like and dislike about Bedard. He’s shown ace caliber performance in the past but his medical file would make Carl Pavano blush. He doesn’t like big cities but he also carved up the AL East when he was with the Orioles. He’s left-handed and matches up well particularly well against the Red Sox but he’s also homer prone. The money cost is low but I can’t imagine the prospect cost will be given his overall performance. I try to just present the facts for discussion purposes and not give a definitive yes or no in these posts, but I’m breaking my own rule and saying “no” to Bedard. That health track record is scary, I’d much prefer a surer thing (if one exists when it comes to pitchers) even if the potential performance isn’t as exciting.