Rich Harden Rumors
The Red Sox have inquired about A's right-hander Rich Harden, reports Peter Gammons (Twitter link). After spending much of the season on the 60-day DL with a muscle injury in his throwing arm, Harden has a 5.00 ERA in three starts with Oakland. Two of those outings were quality starts and Harden has an impressive 17 strikeouts (against just four walks) in 18 innings pitched.
Boston owner John Henry predicted a "quiet deadline" for his team yesterday but acquiring Harden would give the Sox a bit more depth for their struggling and injury-plagued rotation. Of course, the big question with Harden is if he can avoid injury himself and if he can pitch effectively in a hitter-friendly park like Fenway. Not that money is necessarily a major issue for Boston, but Harden is a potentially great late-season bargain -- he has only around $600K remaining on the one-year, $1.5MM deal he signed with the A's last winter.
Some links for Sunday afternoon...
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that All-Star Joel Hanrahan doesn't have a bonus for being selected to the All-Star Game built into this year's contract with the Pirates, but you can bet his 2012 contract will have one.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Rich Harden could make sense for the Rockies or Diamondbacks if he continues throwing well.
- Olney quotes ESPN's Evan Cohen in this tweet, pointing out that the Dodgers owe $74MM to 40 creditors, which is more than twice the $31MM they have committed to players for 2012.
- The New York Post's Joel Sherman spoke to a Yankees executive and says it's unlikely that they pursue Royce Ring (Twitter link), who opted out of his contract with the Mariners today. Ring had a solid 2010 season for the Yanks' Triple-A affiliate.
- The Indians could use an outfielder and Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer outlined some possible trade targets for the Tribe. Ryan Ludwick, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kubel are among the names suggested.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter) expects Padres reliever Chad Qualls to be dealt.
- Between Latin American prospects Elier Hernandez and Nomar Mazara, Ben Badler of Baseball America (via Twitter) prefers the potential of Hernandez. Hernandez signed with the Royals yesterday for $3.05MM while Mazara agreed to a record setting deal worth more than $5MM with the Rangers.
Jhoulys Chacin lowered his ERA to 2.81 today after allowing just one run on three hits in six innings today against the Padres. Chacin picked up his eighth win of the season and improved his case for inclusion on the NL All-Star Team.
Some notes from both divisions out west....
- The Giants are looking to the Rangers as a potential source of catching help, reports CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler. Taylor Teagarden is cited as a possible candidate once Mike Napoli returns from injury and resumes backing up Yorvit Torrealba. Knobler says the Giants' catching search has extended to the minor leagues as the club has sent scouts to look at various Triple-A backstops.
- Rich Harden looked good in his most recent simulated game and the Athletics are looking to send Harden on a rehab assignment in Triple-A next week, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- The Angels have signed 30 of their 49 draft picks, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The highest pick to sign thus far is fifth-round outfielder Andrew Ray.
- The Angels and Rockies were the only MLB teams in the top 10 of ESPN The Magazine's annual list of the best franchises in sports, reports Chuck Schilken of the Los Angeles Times. The Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers topped the list, while the Angels were fourth and the Rockies eighth. The lowest-ranked baseball team? The Mets, who ranked 117th out of 122 teams in MLB, the NFL, NHL and NBA.
The Nationals have announced the passing of shortstop prospect Yewri Guillen due to bacterial meningitis. Guillen, 18, was signed by Washington in February and was playing at the club's Dominican Republic academy. He was honored with a moment of silence before tonight's Brewers/Nationals game. MLBTR sends our condolences to Guillen's friends and family.
Some news from around the majors...
- Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star discussed potential call-ups and other roster moves for the Royals in a chat with fans this afternoon.
- Rich Harden has suffered an injury to his teres major muscle that will likely elongate his stay on the disabled list, reports MLB.com's Eric Gilmore. Harden, who signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal with the Athletics in December, has been on the DL with an injury to his throwing shoulder.
- Are the surprising Indians for real? Probably not, says Fangraphs' Steve Slowinski, but the Tribe has so many young players on the roster that it's hard to calculate if these players will drastically fall off or if some are just developing. Slowinski also notes that Cleveland is winning despite slow starts from expected stars like Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana.
- The White Sox closer will be "whoever is there in the ninth inning," Ozzie Guillen tells Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune. We didn't get a chance to see a save situation tonight as Chicago lost to the Angels, but keep following @CloserNews (MLBTR's sister Twitter feed) for the latest on who will be finishing games for the Pale Hose.
Rich Harden is returning to Oakland, as the Athletics continue to collect starting pitchers with injury concerns. Harden's one-year deal, which is now official, is worth $1.5MM plus incentives, so the risk is low in this case.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney hears that Harden will compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training (Twitter link). Another signing of this type, Brandon McCarthy, could be his main rival. Harden spent the first five and a half seasons of his career in Oakland, where he posted lofty strikeout numbers and a 3.42 ERA between trips to the DL. Last winter the Athletics brought in Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer as their injury-risk signings, committing $12MM to the pair despite both missing the entire 2009 season. This year, they've guaranteed only $2.5MM to Harden and McCarthy.
The 29-year-old Harden continued to encounter health issues in 2010, but the low ERA and remarkable strikeout rate were nowhere to be found. Harden battled glute and shoulder injuries this year and posted a 5.58 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 6.1 BB/9 in 92 innings for the Rangers. His 51.2% flyball rate was the third-highest in baseball among those with 90 innings, so he's suited for a big ballpark.
Seven teams other than Oakland reportedly had some interest in Harden: the Yankees, Twins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Mariners, and Rockies. WMG represents Harden.
Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.
5:57pm: Renck reports the Harden-A's agreement is unconfirmed (Twitter link). The Rockies are out on Harden. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A's have talked to Harden, who appears to have better offers elsewhere (Twitter links). Slusser notes that the A's are still talking to Justin Duchscherer.
5:09pm: The A's will sign Rich Harden, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter link). Harden spent the first five and a half seasons of his career in Oakland, where he posted lofty strikeout numbers and a 3.42 ERA between trips to the DL.
The 29-year-old continued to encounter health issues in 2010, but the low ERA and remarkable strikeout numbers were nowhere to be found. Harden battled glute and shoulder injuries this year and posted a 5.58 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 6.1 BB/9 in 92 innings for the Rangers.
Seven teams other than Oakland reportedly had some interest in Harden: the Yankees, Twins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Mariners, and Rockies.
The Yankees, Twins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Mariners, and Rockies have checked in on free agent righty Rich Harden, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi says some teams like Harden as a starter, others as a reliever.
The oft-injured Harden received a $7.5MM guarantee from the Rangers last year, but had a lost season. He posted a 5.58 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 6.1 BB/9, 1.8 HR/9, and 34.5% groundball rate in 92 innings, battling a strained glute and shoulder tendinitis. These days he's a fastball/changeup pitcher with a 90.5 mph average heater.
We've heard that Ty Wigginton is the Rockies' top target for a right-handed bat, but the club has other targets for that role, as well as interest in several other players, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Let's go over some of them:
- Jorge Cantu is one alternative to Wigginton, despite a miserable second half to the 2010 season. GM Dan O'Dowd acknowledged that they'd prefer someone who can play in the outfield, but that's not critical.
- The Rockies have soured on Josh Willingham due to Washington's asking price and concerns over the 31-year-old's knee. They've also called about Jeff Francoeur, believing he could handle first base.
- Colorado would have interest in Rich Harden in a bullpen role, if the righty would be willing to make the switch from starting pitching. There's also the question of whether or not the injury-prone Harden could hold up physically. Renck says the Rox have tried to acquire Harden numerous times in the past, but to no avail.
- Colorado is also looking at Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain, and Pedro Feliciano, though the first three prefer to close, which won't happen in Denver.
- The Rockies also haven't closed the door on Joe Beimel, who tells Renck he'd love to come back to Colorado.
5:28pm: The Mariners are interested in a number of free agents, including two players whose 2010 seasons ended prematurely because of injury. Gregg Zaun, who is on the Cardinals' radar, has caught the Mariners' attention. The team will meet with his agents tonight or tomorrow, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times (on Twitter).
While the relative strength of the National League compared to the American League is debatable, it's hard to deny that the Senior Circuit is more appealing to pitchers. Replacing the pitcher in the lineup with a designated hitter makes AL lineups more potent, as this year's offensive statistics showed - five of baseball's top six run-scoring teams in 2010 play in the Junior Circuit.
The difference may be negligible for certain players, but each year there are usually a few pitchers who switch leagues and immediately see their numbers rise or fall accordingly. After being dealt from the Indians to the Cardinals this season, for instance, Jake Westbrook posted a 3.48 ERA and 6.6 K/9, compared to his Cleveland marks of 4.65 and 5.1.
So although there's no guarantee that starting pitchers will enjoy more success playing in the National League, here are five potential free agents who may benefit from signing with an NL club:
- Javier Vazquez: Of all the pitchers who switched to the American League last offseason, Vazquez suffered perhaps the most drastic setback. After finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2009, the 34-year-old pitched so poorly this season that he lost his spot in the Yankees' starting rotation. Even taking into account his first two up-and-down years with the Expos, Vazquez's career NL numbers (4.02 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9) are better across the board than his AL totals (4.65, 7.9, 2.7). Vazquez won't be back in the Bronx, and his best shot at decreasing his 2010 longball rate (1.8 HR/9) and returning to form might come in the NL.
- Kevin Millwood: We heard earlier this year that Millwood could seek a pitcher-friendly environment for 2011, after years of pitching in Baltimore and Texas. The move makes sense for the right-hander; he still has some value as a veteran innings eater, but could potentially be much more than that in a park like Petco in San Diego. We don't know what kind of contract the 35-year-old will be seeking, so it's possible he could be too expensive for a team like the Padres. For what it's worth though, San Diego was thought to have interest in Milwood in August.
- Jeremy Bonderman: One of the youngest arms on the open market, Bonderman could be an interesting fourth or fifth starter for a team willing to take a flier on him. Though his 4.89 career ERA is uninspiring, he's a former first-round pick and will turn 28 next week. His career peripherals suggest that he still has potential, and he strikes me as the type of pitcher who would benefit from the tutelage of a pitching coach like the Cardinals' Dave Duncan. The Cards may re-sign Jake Westbrook or look elsewhere for starting pitching, but St. Louis isn't the only possible landing spot for the long-time Tiger, who could benefit from a change of scenery.
- Bruce Chen: The 33-year-old journeyman has experienced an unusual major league career, playing for six National League teams before arriving in Boston in 2003. Since then, he has played for four different American League clubs. Chen's career numbers are relatively similar in both leagues, but coming off a successful season in Kansas City, perhaps a return to the NL could be in the cards. While the left-hander has lost some velocity on his fastball since he last played in the Senior Circuit, he's gotten by relying more on flyball outs and less on strikeouts. For a team in a pitcher's park, Chen could be a worthwhile back-of-the-rotation addition.
- Rich Harden: Although a healthy season would help Harden's stock more than changing leagues would, moving to the National League certainly wouldn't hurt. While the right-hander excelled in Oakland when he was healthy, his second stint in the AL wasn't as impressive; his 5.58 ERA for the Rangers this year was by far a career-worst. Still, like Bonderman, Harden is relatively young, turning just 29 next month. He also had stretches of dominance in his time with the Cubs in 2008 and 2009, striking out 11 batters per nine innings and posting a 3.31 ERA in 212 innings over the two years. Again, health is the big concern with Harden, but an NL team may feel more comfortable taking the risk than an AL one would.