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Matt Harrison Rumors
While GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Mike Elias recognize how much three straight No. 1 overall picks have helped the Astros organization, the duo said in a press conference yesterday (video link) that they’re hopeful they won’t be in that spot again in 2015. Elias discussed the club’s approach to picking first overall: “We enter the year with a pool of players who we deem to be candidates for the pick. It’s usually about seven players long, the list. And we try to hang with those players as long as we can, reasonably, into the spring. We want to get as much info on these guys as possible so that we’re not blindsided if one of them storms up the list at the end, or if one of them might fall off the list for whatever reason.” Luhnow adds that while the first-round picks add huge value, “you really make your money on the draft in the later rounds.”
Here’s more out of the AL West …
- While it is far too soon to judge last year’s draft results, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper explains why the Astros‘ Mark Appel‘s early-career struggles could actually be cause for concern about his true ceiling. Appel, a college hurler taken first overall last year by Houston, has been knocked around in the low minors — putting him in the company of high-end busts. College arms that have gone on to dominate at the big league level, says Cooper, have tended to overpower lower-level competition easily with their combination of stuff and polish. What is most troubling, Cooper says, is that those stats have coincided with scouting reports that paint Appel as more of a mid-rotation arm.
- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison underwent disc fusion surgery today, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (via Twitter). That means, of course, that he will not attempt to rehab and pitch through his back issues. While Harrison sounds determined to have a go at a comeback, so long as it is a viable possibility, success seems far from given at this point.
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that while the Angels have delayed a tough decision by optioning Jarrett Grube to make room for the returning Josh Hamilton, something has to give soon. By this weekend, the team will need another pitcher, and either C.J. Cron or Grant Green — both of whom have hit very well — is likely to be optioned. Fletcher calls Raul Ibanez the elephant in the room, noting that the veteran DH’s numbers haven’t improved since he’s been platooned. Ibanez’s roster spot was said to be secure as recently as May 19, though he’s batted just .143/.226/.286 since that time and is hitting .147/.259/.272 overall.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Athletics GM Billy Beane may have outdone himself with his most recent round of immense production from unheralded players, writes MLB.com’s Richard Justice. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has continued his torrid pace since seemingly emerging out of nowhere last year, stood out to Beane with his somewhat hidden elite athleticism and extreme competitiveness. Now, reclamation project Jesse Chavez is taking the league by storm from the mound. “We liked him in the minor leagues,” Beane explained, “and felt he’d never really got an opportunity in the big leagues.” While Beane’s much-publicized success with statistical analysis has required consistent adaptation to maintain an edge, he says that the club identified Chavez through the same use of “objective numbers” that drove the Moneyball era. “We’ve had to reinvent ourselves a few times,” he explained. “There were things we were doing 10 years ago we weren’t able to continue to do. To constantly solve the challenges we have is not easy. It’s very self-satisfying for all of us.” Given Beane’s comments on Chavez’s lack of opportunity, it will certainly be interesting to see whether recent addition Kyle Blanks is able to harness his potential with healthy, consistent playing time in Oakland.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- If Chavez is not the most surprising top performer through the season’s first quarter, that is only due to the emergence of 26-year-old journeyman Yangervis Solarte, who sports a .907 OPS in his rookie campaign. The Tigers were keen to sign Solarte before acquiring Ian Kinsler, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. With Detroit assistant GM Al Avila reportedly a big fan of Solarte, the team had also unsuccessfully pursued him as a minor league free agent before the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Solarte’s agent, Peter Greenberg, says that Solarte chose to go to the Yankees because the team had an easier path to a big league opening and ultimately gave him a relatively robust $22K monthly salary in the minors (with three months guaranteed).
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette addressed today’s signing of free agent reliever Heath Bell, who will look to revive his career by starting over at Triple-A. “Bell is a proven veteran pitcher with experience who has agreed to a Triple-A deal,” Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). “We believe he can help our major league club later this season.”
- Injured Rangers starter Matt Harrison will undertake an epidural injection in hopes of quieting the pain from his back condition, but the next steps remain unclear, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. “It’s kind of put me in the position where either I deal with it or have the surgery and get it fused together and try to make a comeback from that,” said Harrison. “It’s going to be even tougher than it was the last time but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s going on at this point in time and trying not to let it sink in that it may have been my last game.” Ultimately, while he clearly hopes to do whatever it takes to return, Harrison indicated that he would keep his long-term future in mind with the dangerous condition he has. “Obviously your health is most important but I know there are guys who’ve come back before,” he said. “I’m going to give that a shot if I end up having it but if I come back and things are the same or worse as they were before it’s not worth the risk. It’s really not worth me being 29 years old and not being able to walk.”
10:19pm: The team would expect to recover a “significant portion” of Harrison’s $13MM annual salary over 2015-17 in the unfortunate event that he cannot throw due to the injury, Grant adds in an update to his post.
7:51pm: Should Perez try to avoid a TJ procedure, he would sit out for ten to twelve weeks while rehabbing, per an updated report from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Of course, that strategy comes with the risk of delaying his recovery time by that period if he ultimately goes under the knife.
The prospects for Harrison, should he elect surgery, seem fairly grim. “There just aren’t a lot of guys who have had it and come back successfully,” said GM Jon Daniels. “I’m hoping that while the odds might not be good he will be the exception.” Grant does note that an insurance policy on Harrison paid out $2.5MM last year and could afford the club coverage of $6MM of the $8MM salary owed for 2014. The report does not indicate how the policy impacts the future years of the deal.
In terms of dealing with the injuries, Daniels said that the team is going to stick with internal options for the time being. “We will look to ride it out,” he said. “We might consider the trade market at some point, but right now, we’ll look to ride it out.”
6:02pm: Two key Rangers starters — lefties Martin Perez and Matt Harrison — have significant injuries that could result in long DL stints, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (Twitter links).
Perez, 23, has a partial UCL tear in his left elbow. While he is weighing the possibility of resting and pitching through the injury, a Tommy John procedure is on the table.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Harrison has another serious back issue (called spondylolisthesis) that could require a form of spinal fusion surgery. He, too, could potentially try to throw without surgery. However, if it becomes necessary, the procedure could potentially be career-threatening, according to a tweet from Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.
The pair of hurlers had been expected to be key rotation pieces in Texas for the long haul. Perez was signed this November to a four-year, $12.5MM extension, which includes club options for 2018 through 2020. Harrison inked his own, even larger deal before the 2013 season. The extension, which covers the 2013 through 2017 campaigns and comes with a club option, guarantees him $55MM.
Needless to say, even if both Perez and Harrison see enough to gain in attempting to avoid surgery, the news clouds the outlook this year for a club that has already been hit hard by injuries. With fellow long-term commit Derek Holland still working back from his own serious knee injury, there are plenty of questions in the staff outside of ace Yu Darvish. While the rotation has fared reasonably well by measure of fWAR to date, it ranks fourth from the bottom in the league in terms of earned run average. Sitting at .500, Texas now seems an obvious potential pitching buyer over the summer — if, that is, the team can stay within striking distance.
Of course, the downside scenarios — a one-year plus recovery for Perez, and an uncertain rehabilitation process for Harrison — could have major implications for the franchise’s trajectory. Texas has committed significant future payroll (through extensions, free agency, and trades), and certainly is built to win in the immediate future. Lacking surefire pitching prospects who appear ready to step into the MLB rotation, Texas could face some tough decision-making if Perez and Harrison are gone for extended periods of time.
FEB. 24: It's good news for the Rangers, as Harrison's MRI came back clean, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Though Harrison will not be ready by Opening Day, he is expected to re-start his throwing program in just two days.
FEB. 20: After missing most of last season due to a series of surgeries — two relating to a herniated disk in his back along with a procedure on his non-throwing shoulder — southpaw Matt Harrison entered camp hopeful of regaining his form as one of the Rangers' top starters. But after experiencing lower back stiffness, Harrison is now set for an MRI and examination by his spine surgeon, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
Harrison will not participate in baseball activities until his appointment on Monday, at the earliest. The news was met with a blend of concern and cautious optimism. "With everything he went through last year, there is a level of concern," said GM Jon Daniels. "Hopefully, it's just some irritation from getting going. … He did a lot this winter without having any issues." Harrison, too, acknowledged "some concern" but said he "hope[s] that it's not a serious issue."
The 28-year-old inked a five-year, $55MM extension in January of last year, but has not yet had much of a chance to make good on it. Fortunately for the club, an insurance policy is reportedly in place that should ease the burden of his absence on the pocketbook.
But with sights set on a World Series run, cost savings will not ameliorate the impact on the field of any missed time. The Rangers are already dealing with an injury to another key starter, Derek Holland. It is far from clear, of course, whether Harrison's injury — even if it is serious — would precipitate a new addition. But as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote recently, the club already faced questions at the back of the rotation, where several candidates are vying for spots. Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, and Alexi Ogando figure to be good bets to occupy a regular turn, but several players of less-certain capabilities line up behind them. The team recently signed Tommy Hanson, adding him to a mix that potentially includes Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Nick Tepesch, Michael Kirkman, and Colby Lewis.
The list of pitchers likely to receive qualifying offers this year includes Hiroki Kuroda, Ervin Santana and A.J. Burnett, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. But Cameron also looks into some less obvious candidates, like Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays. Three pitchers (Kuroda, Rafael Soriano, and Kyle Lohse) received qualifying offers last offseason; Cameron seems to think that number should be slightly higher this winter. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, will soon be eligible to begin a rehab assignment, but the Tigers aren't sure what they'll do with him, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. The season has ended for all the Tigers' minor-league teams, which makes the Florida instructional league, which begins September 19, the most likely possibility. The Tigers must decide by September 26 whether to place Peralta back on the active roster. They don't appear to have made that decision yet. Peralta becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
- Starter Matt Harrison had his third surgery of the season on Monday, but the Rangers have insurance on his contract, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Harrison is signed to a five-year, $55MM contract that begins this season. He's set to make $13MM annually in 2015 through 2017. The insurance on Harrison is fortunate for the Rangers, as is the fact that Harrison's latest surgery is on his non-throwing shoulder.
Recent Mariners callup Taijuan Walker's skin color is important for the future of baseball, as just 2.3 percent of the 648 pitchers who have thrown in the majors this year are American-born black players, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes. The rise of Walker, whose father is black and mother is half-Mexican, half-white; and the Rays' Chris Archer, who was born to a black father and white mother, "represents what the league desperately hopes is a trend and not an anomaly," Passan says. On to more Saturday night major league links:
- Over the last two seasons, National League starters acquired by the Rangers have failed to succeed in the AL West, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, posting a collective 4.72 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 1.37 HR/9. Though Grant rightly acknowledges that the sample is far too small to be conclusive, it is certainly true that both of the team's major trade-deadline acquisitions – Ryan Dempster (2012) and Matt Garza (2013) — have put up pedestrian numbers for Texas.
- Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison will have surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder on Monday, Grant reports. Harrison had the same procedure, in which a rib is removed, on his throwing shoulder in 2009. “Since I’m already shut down with the back issues for the year, I might as well get it taken care of,” Harrison commented. Rangers GM Jon Daniels says he believes Harrison will be ready for 2014 spring training, Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest tweets.
- Blue Jays assistant GM Andrew Tinnish and scout Danny Evans were in Japan in August to scout Masahiro Tanaka, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports via Twitter. Clubs connected to Tanaka so far include the Twins, Giants and Yankees.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Paul Konerko could draw interest from the Orioles, who tried to acquire another right-handed bat at the deadline, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com opines. Konerko considered signing with the O's after the 2005 season, according to Dubroff, who says the 37-year-old could fill the club's DH slot. Though he's hitting just .243/.306/.359, Baltimore would prefer Konerko over a reunion with Mark Reynolds, Dubroff says. Here's more from around baseball..
- Rangers starter Matt Harrison's back issues will cause him to miss the remainder of the season, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. Harrison, 27, underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in April. The Rangers were targeting a September return for the left-hander, but his back "isn't strong enough," according to Andro.
- Bill Ladson of MLB.com ran down the Nationals that might not return to the club in 2014. The list starts with non-tender Roger Bernadina and one talent evaluator tells Ladson that GM Mike Rizzo has never been a fan of his.
- Cuban prospect Alexander Guerrero is still waiting to be unblocked by the U.S. Government and cannot enter into a contract until that happens, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The infielder has three teams vying for him including the Twins and the Dodgers, who are believed to be the favorites.
- The Twins placed Justin Morneau on waivers, but manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't think that it'll hurt the veteran's play, writes MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. "It just gets out there," Gardenhire said. "There's so many people getting run through waivers now. It's just part of the year here. We understand that this was probably going to happen. It happens to pretty much all our players and everybody else's players."
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
THURSDAY: The Rangers announced they've agreed to sign Harrison to a five-year extension that includes an option for 2018. The club will hold a press conference at Rangers Ballpark today to announce the deal.
WEDNESDAY: The Rangers have agreed to a five-year, $55MM extension with Matt Harrison after the left-hander passed a physical, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (Twitter links). The contract contains an team option for a sixth year in 2018 that can become a vesting option if Harrison reaches certain innings plateaus, Wilson adds. Harrison, 27, is represented by the ACES agency.
Harrison will receive a $1MM signing bonus and the rest of his contract breaks down as follows, according to Wilson. The southpaw will earn $5MM in 2013, $8MM in 2014 and then $13MM in each of the following three seasons. The 2018 option is worth $13.25MM (with a $2MM buyout) but could be worth as much as $15.75MM. That option will vest if Harrison pitches at least 200 innings in each of the 2015-17 seasons.
The two sides were known to be exploring a multiyear deal earlier this offseason. The deal covers Harrison's final two years of arbitration eligibility and his first three free agent years. I noted back in November that Chad Billingsley's three-year, $35MM extension with the Dodgers was a decent comparable for a possible Harrison extension and in fact this new contract will pay Harrison an average annual value of just under Billingsley's AAV.
This extension could end up being very team-friendly if Harrison continues his development as a front-of-the-rotation starter. Harrison has a 3.34 ERA with a 2.28 K/BB ratio and 5.8 K/9 rate over 399 innings in 2011-12 and showed a talent for keeping the ball on the ground at Rangers Ballpark, with a 49% groundball rate in 2012 and a 47.5% GBR in 2011.
Texas GM Jon Daniels has been quick to lock up key members of his roster, as Harrison joining Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz as Rangers who have signed extensions within the last 12 months. As Wilson points out, the Rangers now have four young starting pitchers (Harrison, Holland, Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando, the oldest of the group at age 29) who are controlled through at least the 2016 season.
The Rangers remain in the market for pitching, but FOXSportsSouthwest.com's Anthony Andro reports the team will bring Robbie Ross to camp as a starter if they don't make any more additions this winter. Texas currently has Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Alexi Ogando slated for the rotation with Colby Lewis due to return at midseason.
Here's the latest from around the league as Friday turns into Saturday…
- "There are still some players that in the right scenario that could be fits for us … There is a reasonable chance that we could add somebody from outside," said Rangers GM Jon Daniels to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, though he also said it could just be a player on a minor league contract. Ownership is willing to add payroll "within reason."
- "We're definitely still talking … We'll see where that goes," said Harrison to Andro. The southpaw and the Rangers were reportedly discussing an extension earlier this offseason.
- Manny Corpas will earn $800K in the big leagues as part of his minor league deal with the Rockies, reports Troy Renck of The Denver Post. The right-hander will earn $14K per month in the minors.
- Ken Davidoff of The New York Post spoke to Braves president (and former GM) John Schuerholz about his team, including the performance of the front office staff.
- Zack Meisel of MLB.com wrote about under-the-radar bargains, something every team tries to find throughout the offseason. Low-risk deals are commonplace in the weeks leading up to Spring Training.
- In an Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Jim Bowden listed the best fit for unsigned big-name free agents like Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano, and Kyle Lohse.
The Rangers have begun "preliminary negotiations" with Matt Harrison's representatives about a contract extension, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Texas GM Jon Daniels said earlier this month that the left-hander was among the extension candidates on the Rangers roster.
"We've touched base with all the guys we want to extend," Daniels said. "Harry's one of them. He's earned that conversation."
Harrison has developed into one of the cornerstones of the Texas rotation after back-to-back quality seasons, posting career-bests in ERA (3.29), K/BB ratio (2.25), groundball rate (49%) and innings pitched (213 1/3) in 2012. The ACES client's strong campaign will earn him a nice raise in his second trip though the arbitration process; MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Harrison will earn a $6.1MM contract, most than double Harrison's $2.95MM salary from 2012.
A Harrison extension would be more expensive than the five-year, $28.5MM deal the Rangers gave to another young left-hander, Derek Holland, last March. Holland was 25 years and still a year away from arbitration when he signed his extension, whereas Harrison turned 27 in September and is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Chad Billingsley's three-year, $35MM extension with the Dodgers before the 2011 season is a decent comparable for Harrison, though Billingsley had thrown over 200 more innings at the time of his multiyear deal than Harrison has at this point in his career. It seems likely that Daniels will look for at least one option year, as he did in recent extensions for other Texas pitchers such as Holland and Scott Feldman.
The Rangers usually don't finalize contract extensions until the spring, as Wilson notes, so Harrison could settle his 2013 contract first before he and the team look to the multiyear contract. Wilson also speculates that Alexi Ogando and Elvis Andrus could be extension candidates for Texas this winter, which could make it two extensions in as many offseasons for Andrus, who is locked up through 2014.