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The Red Sox have a history of taking chances on talented pitchers with a history of injury, or who are in fact returning from injury.
Going as far back as Luis Tiant, and later Bret Saberhagen, the Red Sox have rolled the dice with pitchers on the comeback trail.
More recently, the Red Sox made modest investments in pitchers such as Wade Miller (4 wins, 18 starts, 4.95 ERA), Bartolo Colon (4 wins, 7 starts, 3.92 ERA), Brad Penny (7 wins, 24 starts, 5.61 ERA), and John Smoltz (2 wins, 8 starts, 8.33 ERA). None of these gambles worked out or paid off.
This winter, there are an assortment of similar pitchers—talented but injury prone—looking for work. Pitchers like Ben Sheets, Mark Mulder, and Kelvim Escbobar are all available and seeking an opportunity to regain their previous form.
The Red Sox are said to have interest in two of these such pitchers, Rich Harden (28) and Erik Bedard (31 on opening day). Neither was offered arbitration by their previous team, making them all the more desirable.
Harden's career has been racked by injuries, though he has been relatively healthy the last two years. In seven seasons, Harden has made 30 starts just once (31 in 2004), and he has never thrown 200 innings. But last season he had 171 Ks in just 141 innings, an amazing 10.91 K/9 ratio. Harden also has a 3.39 career ERA.
Bedard has been sidelined in each of the past two seasons due to shoulder issues. Over six seasons, Bedard has also made 30 starts just once (33 in 2006), and has never thrown 200 innings. However, he did reach 196 in 2006. That year he also had a career-high 15 wins. And Bedard struck out 221 batters in 2007. His career ERA is 3.71, all in the AL.
Health is obviously the most critical factor with each of these pitchers. All things being equal, having another lefty as nasty as Bedard would considerably deepen the Red Sox rotation. And he's been relatively healthy for most of his career, aside from the last two years.
Given the choice, I'd pick Bedard. But if both are healthy, either would be a nice addition and might be a steal.
What do you think?
If the Sox could get Rich Harden
, who was not offered arbitration by the Cubs, or left-hander Erik Bedard
, who was not offered arbitration by the Mariners, who would you prefer?