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.