The Boston Red Sox were not content with the best record in the American League, the most potent offense in baseball, a Cy Young candidate and three MVP contenders in their lineup. In the run up to the July 31 trade deadline, the Sox were linked to Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Garza and Rich Harden.
By the time the 4 p.m. deadline had passed, the only somewhat major move GM Theo Epstein had made was a trade for Seattle Mariners starter Erik Bedard. The Red Sox were keen to improve their starting rotation, and with Bedard, they might just have done that.
When one hears Erik Bedard’s name, one thinks "injury." He has not made 17 starts in a season since 2007 and has pitched over 145 innings only twice. But he has had a pretty good career. This is his seventh full season in the majors; he is 55-48 lifetime with a 3.69 earned run average and a 120 ERA+.
He finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2007, then with the Baltimore Orioles, when he led the league in hits per nine innings and strikeouts per nine innings.
He only saw action in the minors in 2010, making three starts, but has fared well in his return to big league action this season.
This season has been something of a rebirth for Erik Bedard. In 16 starts, he has a 3.45 ERA. He is 4-7, but that is unsurprising since only one Seattle Mariners starter has a winning record. Bedard’s WHIP is just 1.17, and he is striking out almost three times as many batters as he walks.
From April 27 to June 27, before he went on the DL with a knee injury, he had a 1.77 ERA and an opponents’ BA of .191 in 11 starts. Josh Beckett is having a great season, but even he could not match Bedard over that stretch. The talent is still there, if Bedard can stay healthy.
In exchange for Erik Bedard, Boston sent to the Seattle Mariners catcher Tim Federowicz, pitcher Stephen Fife outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang (all at Double-A) and pitcher Juan Rodriguez, who is in Class A.
Four prospects is a lot to surrender for what the Red Sox received. But when you look at it, it is not that bad.
Fife and Rodriguez are pitchers, and pitching is by far the strength of the organisation. Chih-Hsien Chiang is one of the best hitters in the Sox’ farm system, but where would he play? All three OF positions are taken at the big league level.
Federowicz is the toughest pill to swallow since he has a legitimate chance to be a good catcher in the future. Even then, the trade was worth it.
At first glance, the trade was a bad one for Boston, but when you break it down, they could have lost more.
ESPN Boston is reporting today that Clay Buchholz, who has been on the DL since June 19, has a stress fracture in his lower back, and it is possible that he could miss the rest of the season.
Buchholz is the X factor for the Red Sox this year. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are great, but you need a third reliable starter in the playoffs. If Buchholz could have come back to be that guy, the Sox would have had a chance at the pennant. With him out, it will be a lot tougher.
With Erik Bedard, though, the Red Sox have another option for that third starter. He has the ability to pitch the rest of the way and would make up for at least some of what the Sox are missing in Buchholz.
The Boston Red Sox already have the best offense in the majors, leading all of baseball in runs, average, OBP, slugging, OPS and wOBA.
They have a legitimate Cy Young contender in Josh Beckett and another elite pitcher in Jon Lester. After that, though, there are question marks. John Lackey, Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield can give up eight runs just as easily as they can throw a two-hitter. That inconsistency is never good down the stretch. With Clay Buchholz out, Erik Bedard is just good enough to shore up the rotation.
Theo Epstein would be happy if he gave them six innings and four runs; there is no reason to think he won’t be able to give the Sox at least that.