The value of having depth at Triple-A cannot be understated. Injuries will inevitably happen, and how good your replacements are could make all the difference when they do. Bringing back Erik Bedard and Mike Fontenot will not change the balance of power in baseball, but you never know if it could help the Rays this season.
Bedard opted out of his minor league after losing out on the Rays’ fifth starter job, but evidently no better opportunity was available. The Rays are glad to have him back. Bedard, 35, was an effective pitcher in 2011 for the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox before experiencing poor results with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros the last two years. But even as his performance has suffered, Bedard struck out 8.2 batters per 9 innings last season, marking the ninth straight season (aside from a 2010 lost to injury) in which his strikeout rate has been above 7.8 per 9. It is questionable that Bedard can be an effective big league starter again, but he could have some value as a long reliever at the very leaset. Especially with the Rays possessing an open 40-man roster spot, it would not be crazy at all to see him surface in such a role. Erik Bedard will head to Triple-A Durham to begin the season, and the Rays will call upon him when the need arises.
Mike Fontenot was unimpressive at Durham last season, hitting to a .264/.335/.379 line in 470 plate appearances. But the 33 year old is a versatile left-handed hitter with strong career numbers against righties and experience at second base, shortstop, and third base, and that is exactly what the Rays needed. The Rays have two strong backup infielders on their roster in Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe, but Jayson Nix could very well end up with another team and Hak-Ju Lee is out 3 to 4 weeks with further knee issue, creating an opening on the Durham roster for this year. Fontenot will begin the year with an encore performance in Durham, but he could be the first player the Rays turn to should an injury strike anywhere on their infield.
The Rays love having big league players with track records of success at Triple-A. They now have two more of them in Erik Bedard and Mike Fontenot. If the presence of one or both of them is needed, the Rays cannot expect them to seamlessly replace the injured player, but they will be getting players who have been there before and can be relied upon. The Rays have nothing to lose and something to gain by having them on the Durham roster.