The Tampa Bay Rays have made their second move in as many days to add another starting pitcher to the system; bringing in left-hander Erik Bedard on a minor league deal with an invite to Major League spring training. Bedard figures to add competition for the 5th starter spot, as well as provide an option as a long reliever out of the bullpen.
Bedard has been a stout pitcher over the course of his career. From 2006-2011, Bedard threw to a 3.44 ERA while striking out 9.1 batters per nine innings and walking 3.3 batters per nine. He did average just 134 innings per season due to various injuries over these years, but he was effective when he was on the mound. The last two years, however, Bedard has not been so great. In 2012, he posted a 5.01 ERA in 24 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and followed that up with a 4.59 ERA in 32 appearances (26 starts) with the Houston Astros.
Despite the subpar performance the past couple of years, Bedard is a solid option for the Rays. The Rays have seen their depth tested this offseason after finding out that Jeremy Hellickson would be out until at least mid-May with an elbow injury. The Rays have plenty of names to provide depth, but none are a sure thing. Matt Andriese, Nate Karns, and Enny Romero all figure to be key to the Rays’ pitching depth this year, but none are proven above Double-A. On top of that, Alex Colome can’t stay healthy and might be better suited in the bullpen, and Mike Montgomery hasn’t performed well in three years. Bedard brings more of a sure thing to the Rays’ depth. If an injury is to occur in spring training, Bedard is there to ensure that none of the Rays’ prospects are rushed to the majors before they are ready.
As far as making the opening day roster, Bedard is on the outside looking in as a starter. Jake Odorizzi has proved himself worthy of a major league roster spot the last two years in Triple-A, but there hasn’t been a spot for him in the big leagues. Now, he figures to make the Rays roster as the 5th starter with Hellickson going down. Bedard will be put in competition with Odorizzi, but he will ultimately lose out unless Odorizzi looks absolutely horrible in the spring. Injury is always a possibility, though, Bedard might be the next option after Odorizzi. The Rays have a plethora of younger options that could step up in the event of injury, but they are not likely to prematurely promote anyone to the big leagues. Bedard likely won’t find himself in the rotation unless an injury occurs, but if one does he might become the Rays best option at the 5th starter spot.
While Bedard isn’t too likely to make the rotation, he could find himself in the bullpen. Right now, the Rays only have one lefty that is a sure bet to make the bullpen in Jake McGee. Cesar Ramos was in the bullpen all of last year, but his numbers were nothing special, and Joe Maddon only showed he was willing to use Ramos if a game was out of hand. Ramos’ best case for a bullpen spot this upcoming year was the fact that he could throw multiple innings. The Rays did not have another true candidate for a swingman other than Ramos, but now Bedard is added into the picture. His numbers as a starter last year weren’t as good as Ramos’, however you have to take into account that a starter must face hitters multiple times a game, and these hitters make adjustments as the game goes on. In relief, Bedard wouldn’t have to face hitters multiple times in the same game, so his numbers would go up. Bedard also showed he was a fly ball pitcher last year, as his groundball rate was just 36.4%. However, Tropicana Field is known for its ability to keep fly balls from leaving the park, which would certainly benefit Bedard. Also, Ramos can throw multiple innings, but he is not a true option to make a spot start. Having Bedard in the bullpen would give the Rays an option to make a spot start without having to promote someone from the minors. You do have to keep into mind that while no opt-out clause has been reported in his deal, normally veterans that sign minor league deals have opt-out clauses. He could very well opt out instead of taking of bullpen spot. Overall, Bedard could overtake Ramos as a favorite for a bullpen spot this spring.
Erik Bedard is the type of low-risk signing that Andrew Friedman often makes. He should pitch better in Tropicana Field than he has the last two years given his fly ball tendencies. Bedard now becomes an option to compete for the 5th starter job, especially if another of the Rays’ starters goes down with an injury in spring training. He could also become an option as a lefty swingman out of the bullpen, especially if he outperforms Cesar Ramos this spring. Overall, Andrew Friedman stresses depth each and every offseason. The Bedard signing is just one more way that the Rays can protect themselves from injury.