Today, Yunel Escobar will return to the Tampa Bay Rays. To accommodate him on the roster, the Rays will have the luxury to procrastinate. Jake McGee is set to be on paternity leave for the next two days, meaning that the Rays to not need to make their final move for Escobar until Sunday. At that time, the Rays will be faced with their first major decision of the trade season: whether to keep Erik Bedard around.
It is hard to make the argument at this point that Erik Bedard helps the Rays win games. Bedard has found some moments as a Rays starter this season, proving that his career may not be over, but he is currently the Rays’ sixth best starting option on their big league roster and may be farther down the list counting Triple-A pitchers. Right now, he is pitching out of the bullpen, and that role suits him even worse. Bedard is a second long reliever on the roster alongside Cesar Ramos, and it is only in rare circumstances that the Rays will ever need both of them. There is exactly one reason that the Rays would ever keep Erik Bedard: to be a placeholder in their rotation if David Price is traded. Doing so would make the Rays worse right now–they would have to demote Kirby Yates to make it possible. Would the Rays really send down a useful pitcher for one that is redundant on their roster?
If the Tampa Bay Rays designate Erik Bedard for assignment (or somehow found a way to trade him without doing so), it would not tell us anything. It could be one of two things that are entirely polar opposites: either they are still trying to win games, or they are ready to give their next open rotation spot to a pitcher like Alex Colome at Triple-A. If the Rays actually kept Bedard, however, it would basically be a harbinger of a David Price trade. The move would make almost no sense otherwise–pending an injury to one of the Rays’ other starters, which we would hopefully hear about in advance and have time to adjust our expectations accordingly. In any event, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of Bedard not being with the Rays come Sunday. Bedard really was out the door quite a while ago only to see his Rays tenure extended by the injury to Escobar and now McGee’s paternity leave. No matter what is going to happen to David Price, Erik Bedard will be long gone by the time that decision is made.