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Rays sign LHP Erik Bedard to MiLB deal

J. Meric

The Rays are likely to sign Erik Bedard, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and our sources confirm that the Rays have a strong interest in the Canadian southpaw.

After the Nate Karns acquisition this afternoon, Andrew Friedman remarked that the Rays still had one or two moves left to make before Spring Training. A veteran catcher on a minor league deal might fit that statement, but so does a veteran pitcher.

Bedard would be expected to sign a minor league deal, as he did with the Astros last season, and as SBNation's insider Chris Cotillo heard rumblings of in St. Pete earlier this week.

When Hellickson succumbed to elbow surgery a few days ago, I sifted through the available starting pitchers and found three suitable names for the Rays, should they want a starter to replace Hellickson's innings in the rotation. Bedard was one of them.

He made 26 starts and six relief appearances for Houston, with a 4.38 FIP, a 20.8% strikeout rate, and an 11.3% walk rate. Based on career numbers and performance over the last five years, he would be expected to have some positive regression in each category. Although, projections disagree slightly on how positive that regression might be for the 34-year old.

Projections IP ERA FIP K% BB% WAR
PECOTA 126.1 4.36 4.74 20.0% 10.1% 0.7
Steamer 182.0 4.28 4.21 20.0% 10.3% 1.9
Oliver 140.0 4.45 4.32 19.0% 10.3% 1.5

Here was my commentary on Bedard in comparison to the market:

Pros: Effective against RHH, had success in relief
Cons: All fastballs, all the time; rising flyball rate, rising Z-swing rate

Of the remaining options, Bedard holds the most projected value in 2014. He generated more flyballs than usual last season, including a sky-high 15.2% in-field fly rate which should regress. Both play well to the Trop, but may not on the road. His sinker, change, and curve all have decent movement, and he loves throwing everything to the catcher's glove.

Bedard, if anything, would be an inexpensive signing. He earned $1.15M with Houston last season, and made a smooth transition to the 'pen when needed. If the Rays are worried about depth while marinating young starters in the minors, this is an ideal situation.

Update, 8:45 AM - Jon Heyman reports Bedard to the Rays is a done deal.

If the Rays were interested in signing a veteran arm, this was the opportune time, as pitchers begin reporting to camp and discover injuries, like Iwakuma and Walker in Seattle.

Topkin confirms it's a minor league deal.

Bedard will report with pitchers and catchers on the first day of Spring Training this morning.

PECOTA projections via Baseball Prospectus. Steamer and Oliver projections courtesy of Fangraphs.