Rich Harden to compete for rotation spot with A’s, but bullpen also an option

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Rich Harden’s one-year, $1.5 million contract with the A’s became official yesterday and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’ll compete for a rotation spot in spring training, with a spot in the bullpen looming as the fallback option.

Harden indicated that he’d prefer to remain a starter, but told Slusser that he’s not against the idea of moving to the bullpen if necessary: “When I have pitched out of the bullpen I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve always wanted to do it sometime in my career, so I’m not opposed to it.”

Harden has essentially never been healthy as a starter, going on the disabled list nine times in eight seasons and throwing more than 150 innings just once during that time, so it would make sense to see if shorter outings as a reliever could keep him off the DL and perhaps even give his velocity a boost after his fastball lost some zip over the past few seasons.

He went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings spread over 18 starts and two reliefs outings for the Rangers, marking the first time Harden’s performance has slipped significantly along with his annual injuries.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.