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Could the Cleveland Indians Sign Erik Bedard?

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Here at Wahoo Blues, we’re committed to bringing you original ideas and analysis about your Cleveland Indians (I haven’t seen many other Tribe writers advocating for signing Adam Dunn). But that doesn’t mean we have to turn a blind eye when other writers make interesting suggestions.

In his “50 Bold Predictions for the MLB Offseason” article on Monday, Bleacher Report’s Dan Tylicki prophesies that Erik Bedard will hitch on with Cleveland:

If there’s one thing the Indians are pretty good at, it’s finding struggling players and suddenly turning them around. It’s happened recently with Austin Kearns, Kevin Millwood and Carl Pavano, to name a few.

Erik Bedard will be the next on that list as he gets a one-year contract and suddenly will become a big buy next year.

Bedard, 31, is one of the best starters in the game when healthy. He had a 2.82 ERA in 2009 for the Mariners before getting injured, and he was a Cy Young candidate in 2007 for the Orioles, when he went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA. His career rate stats are solid: a 3.71 ERA and a strikeout rate of almost a whiff per inning (8.8 K/9).

The key words there are “when healthy.” Bedard has never reached 200 innings in a season, and hasn’t surpassed 15 starts or 83 innings since 2007. In addition to his shoulder problems (a recurring issue and the reason he’s been sidelined for the last year-and-a-half), he’s dealt with elbow, knee, and oblique injuries throughout his career.

Is he a good fit for Cleveland? Absolutely, if the price is right. Unlike an innings eater (which, as we concluded yesterday, would be a poor choice for the Indians to pursue), Bedard could provide ace-like production at a fraction of the cost of, say, Cliff Lee. No one’s expecting a pennant run at Progressive Field in 2011, but the Indians could certainly be contenders if everything goes right; a healthy Bedard could put the Tribe over the top in the AL Central.

And even if the Indians aren’t in the playoff hunt next summer, a resurgent Bedard could be highly valuable as a trade chip at midseason; good pitchers are in high demand come July.

But while the Indians would be wise to pursue Bedard, I’m not convinced that he’ll end up in Cleveland come Opening Day for one simple reason: price. The Indians won’t be the only ones bidding on Bedard—the Orioles and Cubs have already been connected to him, and the Mets, Blue Jays, Royals, Red Sox, all reportedly pursued him last winter before he re-upped with Seattle.

Last year, Ben Sheets got a $10 million commitment from the Athletics after he missed all of 2009 to recover from elbow surgery. Bedard won’t get nearly that much this year—he got only $1.5 million guaranteed last year when he had missed only two months instead of a year and a half, and with Brandon Webb also available he might not even be the best reclamation project pitcher on the market. But with relatively few solid starter options available beyond Cliff Lee, he could draw significant interest in the coming weeks.

A $1 million deal would be a bargain given his potential, but if the price climbs to more like $5 million, Bedard would seem a questionable investment for a team with a shoestring budget. Sure, that would still be a great deal if he bounces back. But what if he doesn’t?

I’m all for going after Bedard, and if I were Antonetti I’d make him one of my top priorities. But I’m not betting the farm that he’ll be suiting up at The Prog in 2011.