Rangers give Matt Harrison five-year, $55 million contract

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32 wins over the last two years was enough to convince the Rangers to bet heavily on Matt Harrison. They gave the 27-year-old left-hander a five-year, $55 million extension with a vesting option for 2018, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson.

Harrison, part of the Mark Teixeira deal with the Braves that also netted the Rangers Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, opened his career 16-10 with a 5.39 ERA in 32 starts and 31 relief appearances before breaking through in 2011. He’s 32-20 with a 3.34 ERA the last two years.

Of some concern going forward are Harrison’s middling strikeout rates. He got up to 6.1 K/9 IP in 2011, but he fell off to 5.6 last season and his 4.03 FIP wasn’t nearly in line with his 3.29 ERA. Still, considering that he’s a Texas pitcher, 200-inning seasons with 4.00 ERAs would still make him quite valuable to the cause.

Harrison made $2.95 million last season in his first year of arbitration. The new deal buys out the  last two of those and his first three years of free agency.

Harrison will likely start the Rangers’ first or second game this season, whichever one Yu Darvish doesn’t. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are also set to be part of a rotation that still has one opening while Colby Lewis and Feliz continue their rehab from elbow surgeries.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves