Rangers talking contract extension with left-hander Matt Harrison

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The Rangers and Matt Harrison have already had some preliminary discussions about a contract extension, but the left-hander told Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest yesterday that he’s hoping to have more talks this weekend while he’s in town for the team’s Fan Fest.

“We’re definitely still talking,” said Harrison. “We’ll see where that goes. We haven’t got anything finished yet. I’m excited about what’s happening and the opportunity to spend some time here. I definitely will have some time to think about that tomorrow.”

After posting a 3.39 ERA in his first full season in the rotation in 2011, Harrison finished eighth in the AL Cy Young balloting last season by going 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA and 133/59 K/BB ratio over 213 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old southpaw is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and is line for a nice raise from the $2.95 million salary he made in 2012.

Harrison is under team control through 2014, so the Rangers could buy out his final two years of arbitration and maybe some free agent years. The club already has Yu Darvish locked up through 2017 and Derek Holland under contract through 2016 with club options for 2017 and 2018.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”