After the Pirates traded franchise cornerstones Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last month, utilityman Josh Harrison suggested he’d like to play elsewhere if “the team does not expect to contend this year or next.” The Pirates haven’t done anything to assuage Harrison since then, he explained to reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) when he showed up to camp on Sunday.
Regarding a conversation he had with general manager Neal Huntington, Harrison said: “At the end of the day there wasn’t anything said or done that was like, aw man, I can breathe easy. He talked to me, said he wants to win and this or that. At the end of the day I said it’s about action, not speaking.”
Harrison also knocked the Pirates for a lack of transparency – “Some of it goes with not knowing the direction. I understand the business side. Every year, there’s going to be guys coming in and going out. You just want to know where we stand as a team, where you stand as a player” – and backed up teammate David Freese’s recent comments criticizing the Bucs for an absence of “accountability.”
“I don’t care how we do it, but things need to be done,” Harrison declared. “As Freese said the other day, it’s got to be urgent and not just from a couple guys, a couple people in the office. It has to be top to bottom. You talk about Freese, he’s a World Series MVP. The guy’s been there. He knows what it takes to win. I think it will go without saying that he and I, even some of the comments he mentioned, had been conversations we’ve had during the season. It’s been brought to light.”
Although Harrison isn’t content with the state of the Pirates, it’s unclear whether they’re interested in trading him or whether there’s even a market for his services at this point. The New York teams and Toronto have shown the most reported interest in Harrison since last season ended, but both the Mets and Blue Jays have made several moves to address their infield and outfield in recent weeks. Consequently, both teams are likely out of the running for Harrison.
The Yankees still don’t have a proven second or third base solution, meanwhile, and credible free agent options are dwindling. However, the Yankees only have in the neighborhood of $10MM to $15MM in spending room as they try to stay under the $197MM luxury tax line, which could help prevent a deal from occurring even if the Pirates are open to trading Harrison.
While Harrison’s $6.825MM luxury tax number for 2018 is affordable, it still might not be palatable for the Yankees, who have recently passed on similarly valuable, similarly compensated free agent infielders (Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, for instance) and could use their remaining money to address their rotation – which is an area they’ve prioritized. Passing on expensive veteran infielders would enable the Yankees to allow promising prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar to sink or swim at second and third, respectively. Torres could start the year in the minors, in part because it would give the Yankees an extra year of control over him, but they’d only need to wait until mid-April to promote him.
If no trade materializes by Opening Day, the 30-year-old Harrison will start his eighth season in Pittsburgh. Harrison is in the last guaranteed season of the four-year, $27.3MM extension he signed with the Pirates in 2015. He’ll earn $10MM this year and could make up to $21.5MM over the following two seasons, depending on whether his employer picks up his options for 2019 and ’20.