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Harden, Bedard, And Explaining Myself

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Over the past few weeks, I've made no secret of how much I'd like to see the Mariners sign Rich Harden. Given our roster situation and the fact that we're not trying to win now at all costs, I think Harden's risk/reward is an excellent fit, as he has the potential to deliver big-time results out of the rotation without requiring the sort of commitment that would set us back if he flopped. High risk/high reward/low commitment seems like a good way for this team to go. It's with that in mind that a number of people have asked why I've paid so little attention to another guy out there in a similar vein - one Erik Bedard.

Bedard definitely fits the mold. When he's healthy, he's great. When he's not healthy, he's good. He's been a lot more good than great. In the kingdom of pitchers with big talent and bigger question marks, Bedard, Harden, and Ben Sheets are the three branches of government, as any acknowledgment of their ability is always followed with a "Yeah, but-". With all three of them available on the market, then, where's the sense in my limiting my focus to just one of them?

My neglect of Sheets has probably been unfair. I don't think he'd really have that much interest in coming here, certainly not as much as Harden, but he's absolutely worth a look. However, this post is more about explaining my relative lack of attention paid to Bedard. And for that I have two main reasons.

The first one is the obvious one - Bedard isn't in good shape. Not that any of these guys are ever really healthy the way normal people are healthy, but Bedard is rehabbing from surgery on his labrum, and despite advances in medical technology, that's still about as bad as it gets, short of literally having your arm fall off. The track record of people coming back from this sort of procedure is really hit-or-miss, and even if Bedard is able to return at some approximation of his previous self, he's already going to miss the first month of the season, and the likelihood is that he won't be ready to go and feeling 90-100% until June or July. You might recall that Bedard isn't exactly the world's fastest healer.

That's an issue. Bedard's health is a bigger question than Harden's, and even if he's able to come back feeling good, he already has a substantial head start on missed time. Harden might miss a month or two of action. Bedard's a guarantee. That guaranteed missed time reduces the potential reward, and as such reduces my level of interest.

The second reason is just that, from everyone I've talked to, I've never gotten the impression that Bedard would want to come back. He didn't have the greatest experience in Seattle, he - like anyone - would probably like a fresh start somewhere else, and he's always been a guy who prefers to pitch back east. And though big money can change anyone's mind and even lure someone like Alex Rodriguez to somewhere like Texas, the less money there is, the more weight a player will put on other factors like team quality, geographical location, and overall feeling. Bedard can see that this is a team on the rise, but Seattle's a long way from what's comfortable, and he wasn't exactly shown a whole lot of love the last two years. So when it comes down to picking one from a number of small contracts with innings-based incentives, I think Bedard's likely to choose the one with the greatest potential to make him happy as he looks to restore his value.

I like Erik Bedard. A lot. I liked him when we got him, I liked him after we got him, and I still like him now. I would be happy to see him come back in 2010 on a reasonable deal, simply because he's a really good pitcher who would help push this team's upside potential into playoff territory. That said, his odds of making a big impact next year are lower than Harden's, and I don't think he'd really want to come back in the first place. So that's why I haven't been paying him a lot of attention. I'd rather focus on something more likely with more upside.

Bedard's a neat option, but right now, he has to be viewed as a backup. Harden's just the better bet.