Erik Bedard and Juan Carlos Oviedo are gone. The Tampa Bay Rays designated them for assignment, and they were subsequently released, the Rays getting nothing in return. Both pitchers will likely end up with other teams on minor league deals–heck, the Rays might even be interested in having them at Triple-A at depth. Even if this is the end, though, Bedard and Oviedo represent two more cases of the Rays finding undervalued players capable of helping their team, even if their success was more fleeting.
Maybe nothing changed for Erik Bedard. He provided his third straight season with an ERA above 4.50, giving the Rays essentially replacement level production in his 75.2 innings of work. However, that is not the way to look at this deal. On the whole, Bedard did little to help the Rays, but we have to recognize the context he was thrown into. He was brought up at a time when Rays pitchers struggled to complete 5 innings and the losses never seemed to stop. Then, after three appearances to build up his pitch count, Bedard provided a bright spot on a team that could not get itself together otherwise. For a 12-start stretch from April 29th to June 28th, Bedard went 4-4 with a 3.71 ERA, striking out 58 while walking 20 in 63 innings pitched. The Rays went 6-6 in those games compared to 17-27 (.386) when anyone else started. And those few wins made all the difference–they gave the Rays a chance to recover. The Rays’ odds remain long now, but they would have been closer to negligible if Bedard didn’t step up and pitch the way he did. If not for the performance of Erik Bedard, we could have seen the Rays make even more trades when the trade deadline came around.
Juan Carlos Oviedo was not that bad. That is the truth. He managed a 3.69 ERA in his 32 appearances, and while his peripherals were not encouraging, his 93 MPH fastball and good changeup inspired hope that he could turn it around. On a different Rays team, Oviedo may have stayed in the bullpen for the entire season. But instead, the Rays were content taking what Oviedo gave them and moving on. Oviedo, like Bedard, had a stretch of outstanding performance–he managed a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings pitched between May 1st and June 24th. Oviedo’s greatest value, however, may have been as a placeholder. For a good portion of that stretch, Oviedo was appearing in high-leverage games for the Rays. His performance was not always that great, but his presence allowed the Rays to take it slow with Brad Boxberger. We saw at the beginning of Boxberger’s Rays tenure that the big spots rattled him, with the walk-off homer he allowed to Mike Trout on May 15th serving as the best example. However, the Rays had Oviedo to pitch in situations in the beginning, and as Boxberger proved his worth, the Rays could phase Oviedo out. Juan Carlos Oviedo was only expendable because he allowed the Rays to develop a better option.
At the end of the day, the Rays paid Erik Bedard and Juan Carlos Oviedo a few million dollars each to be two serviceable major league pitchers. No, they were not Aaron Harang from this season for the Atlanta Braves and Joaquin Benoit from 2010, but they were decent pitchers who the Rays paid little to play for them. Their signings cannot be described as Andrew Friedman’s best work, but at the same time, the Rays got something out of them and have used that to their advantage. How many minor league signings simply turn into nothing in baseball? Erik Bedard and Juan Carlos Oviedo were far from spectacular, but they provided decent performance, and that has a value as well.