FEB. 6: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Harris’ 2019 option will increase to $6.5MM with 15 games finished in 2018. It’ll increase to $7.5MM if Harris finishes 25 games and $8.5MM if he finishes 35 games.
FEB. 3: The Astros have avoided arbitration by striking a two-year deal with righty Will Harris, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (links to Twitter). He’ll receive a $5MM guarantee ($2.2MM in 2017 and $2.8MM in 2018) in the pact, which also gives Houston a club option for the 2019 campaign. The value of the option will be determined by how many games Harris finishes in the 2018 season, with a range of between $5.5MM and $8.5MM.
The sides had been slated for an arbitration hearing, with Harris (via his agent, Gavin Kahn) filing at $2.3MM and the club countering at $1.95MM. MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz had projected a $2.5MM payday for the 2017 season. Instead of settling, or accepting the decision of an arbitration panel, the sides decided upon a multi-year arrangement that provides some cost certainty to the club while offering some protection to a late-blooming player.
Harris, 32, has largely flown under the radar since breaking into the majors in 2012 — at least until his brief recent stint as the Houston closer last year. But he has produced rather compelling peripherals for quite some time, and that has shown up in the results column since he was claimed by the ’Stros from the Diamondbacks just after the conclusion of the 2014 campaign.
Over the past two seasons, Harris owns a 2.07 ERA over 135 innings. He carries a sturdy 9.1 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9, and has induced grounders on more than half of the balls put in play against him. That makes him one of the game’s better setup men, even if he’s rarely recognized as such.
Though there’s no added control in the arrangement, Houston could certainly stand to save quite a bit of money. Anything close to a repeat of his 2016 season would otherwise have lined Harris up for a big raise. And though he’ll retain a bit of upside in the option year, that too could prove a bargain (both in the arbitration context and more generally). That being said, it’s also easy to see the merit in the arrangement for the righty, who has earned at (or just over) the league minimum to this stage of his career. Given his age and the injury risk inherent to his trade, securing an added season worth of guaranteed money obviously made for a compelling opportunity.