First there was Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Every year we would refer back to that one season when both of them were awesome and hope that they could stay healthy and replicate. Then there was Ben Sheets and Rich Harden. Both pitchers would show no hitter potential and two hours to five days later they were heading to the disabled list. Now Erik Bedard joins the most annoying group in fantasy baseball.
The trade to bring Bedard to Seattle was the worst swap the city has seen over the past couple of years this side of the barrel of oil for the Supersonics. Adam Jones was in the All-Star Game last summer and is earning a cheap salary to boot. Yet the Mariners know that Bedard has the stuff to dominate. That's why they signed him back to a one year deal with a lot of incentives including a mutual option for a second year. They trust that there's some value to get out of Bedard. Should head to head managers do the same?
In a word, no. The problem with a player like Bedard is that they can poison an entire roster when they are on the disabled list to start the season. Once the season gets going and other players on the roster join him on the DL, a bench spot has to be used to keep him on the roster. So while the opponent is maximizing all the bench spots on their roster getting an extra 6 to 12 innings from an active starting pitcher, Bedard is more useless than a password everyone knows. What's worse is that once he comes back there's no guarantee he will stay. Bedard bounced back and forth from the DL to the active roster last year a couple times. Coming back from a torn labrum is much less of a certainty than Tommy John surgery. Bedard's agent stated "If he comes back in the middle of May, boy, that would be outstanding." This is the guy that gets paid to make sure Bedard gets paid. If his optimistic view point has Bedard coming back in May, don't hold your breath.
Now an argument could be made to draft Bedard and then drop him in the event that someone more valuable than him is placed on the DL. First of all, someone more valuable on the average team will be placed on the DL. Look at last year as a case study. Jose Reyes, John Lackey, Aramis Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, Joe Mauer, Chris Carpenter, Alex Rodriguez and others spent time on the disabled list in April and May last season. Carlos Beltran is already going to be there this year. To think that Bedard will somehow be the only player on the team to have the misfortune of an injury would be a horrible assumption. Second, if dropping Bedard is the optimal move in mid or late April, the decision to draft him in the first place was misguided (unless of course he was a last round pick). The pick on Bedard could have been better used on someone else.
If this was a case where Bedard would come back and there was more certainty that he was fine once he came back, the circumstances would be completely different. After all he's one of the few starting pitchers in the game who is capable of finishing with an ERA under 3 and more than a strikeout per inning. Unlike Beltran though, Bedard is not a safe bet to be playing when head to head leagues need him most - in the playoffs. If you're looking for cheap strikeouts and a high payoff from a pitcher turn to someone like Mat Latos or Madison Bumgarner who isn't starting the year on the DL with an injury that might not ever go away.
Mark Schruender is also counting down the best players in fantasy baseball at Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove.