A’s and Rich Harden agree to one-year, $1.5 million contract

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Rich Harden and the A’s have agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million in guaranteed money and another $1.5 million in potential incentives, according to a major league source.

Harden, who was drafted by the A’s in 2000 and pitched in Oakland from 2003 to mid-2008, returns after stints with the Cubs and Rangers.

He hasn’t been injury free for an entire season since way back in 2004 and for the first time this year Harden’s performance suffered even when he was healthy enough to pitch, as he went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings for the Rangers, who bumped him from the rotation and then left him off the postseason roster.

His average fastball velocity dropped to a career-low 90.5 miles per hour this year and has gradually declined from his peak of 94.3 and 94.4 mph in 2004 and 2005, so the longstanding belief that Harden is capable of making a huge impact if he can just stay healthy is also now in plenty of doubt. Still, the price is right and Harden was 36-19 with a 3.42 ERA and 523 strikeouts in 542 innings for the A’s the first time around.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Tony La Russa part ways

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The Arizona Diamondbacks just announced that they are parting ways with Tony La Russa at the end of the month.

La Russa served as the club’s “Chief Baseball Officer” from 2015-16. For the last year he was styled “Chief Baseball Analyst.” That’s a nice way to saying that he was pushed aside when the club fired his hand-picked general manager Dave Stewart and brought in Mike Hazen to run the club a year ago. La Russa was stripped of his powers, but was told he could hang around as an advisor. Most didn’t think he’d actually take the club up on that offer, but he did. By all accounts he was a pretty unobtrusive presence around the team this year, offering counsel and insight when asked but not making things awkward the way having the old boss around might do.

I suppose that can only last so long, however. The Dbacks had considerably more success without La Russa in charge in 2017 than they had with him in charge the previous couple of years. At some point you just part ways. That point is now.