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.