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.
In the wake of the Rangers missing out on re-signing Cliff Lee there’s been some speculation that they could fill his spot in the rotation with closer Neftali Feliz, who was primarily a starter in the minors and ranked among Baseball America‘s top 10 prospects as a starter in back-to-back years.
Yesterday manager Ron Washington indicated the shift is a possibility, but called it “a last resort” and made it very clear that he hopes to keep Feliz (and Alexi Ogando) in the bullpen:
I trust that Jon Daniels will find something to help us out. If that becomes a necessity, we’re fortunate we have that depth. If that does not become a necessity, we’ll keep those guys where they are.
In other words, he’s counting on general manager Jon Daniels acquiring another veteran starter, either through trade (Zack Greinke? Matt Garza?) or free agency (Carl Pavano?).
Initially last night the Cliff Lee storyline was that he left as much as $50 million on the table because he loved Philadelphia and simply wanted to pitch for the Phillies instead of the Yankees or Rangers.
However, now that the various contract details are trickling in it turns out he probably left at most $13 million on the table and may actually end up with more money (once deferred payments and other factors are taken into account) from the Phillies than he was offered elsewhere.
And this afternoon Rangers chief executive officer Chuck Greenberg revealed that Lee “was willing to remain a Ranger” and in fact offered to re-sign if Texas would guarantee him a seven-year deal:
In this instance, it was simply a matter of us saying, “yes.” But it would have been a matter of us saying “yes” on terms that we weren’t comfortable with. This was not a matter of Cliff making a decision not to come to Texas. He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms that we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters within which we were already operation. Had we been willing to go beyond the parameters that we were willing to go, he would be here. But we didn’t think that was in the long-term best interest of the franchise.
Greenberg and company turned down Lee’s seven-year proposal and their final offer was $138 million over six years with a seventh-year vesting option worth $23 million. Lee ended up signing a deal with the Phillies that guarantees him $120 million for five years and includes a sixth-year option for 2016 that vests based on his innings count.
So yes, Lee may have turned down slightly less money in choosing the Phillies, but according to Greenberg that’s only because the Rangers turned down his offer to re-sign for seven guaranteed years.
By waiting until the Cliff Lee domino fell Carl Pavano has put himself in position to be the most sought-after starting pitcher on the free agent market, which is both very smart on his agent’s part and remarkable given how the veteran right-hander was viewed just a couple years ago.
Pavano was a huge bust in New York, winning a grand total of nine games for the Yankees during a four-year, $40 million contract and spending more time on the disabled list than in the rotation.
After leaving the Yankees following the 2008 season his stock was so low and he was viewed as so undependable that Pavano managed only an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Indians that guaranteed him just $1.5 million. In the two seasons since then Pavano has pitched very well and even more surprisingly proven to be very durable, not missing a single start while going 31-21 with a 4.39 ERA in 420 innings.
Even before Lee made his decision Pavano was drawing significant interest from at least three teams and now that the Rangers have missed out on Lee it’s possible they’ll join the Twins, Nationals, and Brewers in pursuit of Pavano. Put aside his history in New York and Pavano would be a pretty good fit for the Yankees too, but you can be certain there’s zero chance of general manager Brian Cashman signing him a second time.
In the span of two years Pavano has gone from oft-injured bust to dependable innings eater and he could be in line for as much as $30 million in upfront money after getting just $1.5 million guaranteed last time he hit the open market.
Wow. In one of the most surprising free agent signings in a long time, Cliff Lee has turned down longer, more lucrative offers from both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Lee’s deal is worth approximately $100 million for five seasons. Obviously that’s far from chump change, especially if reports about a vesting sixth-year option are accurate, but it’s significantly less than the Yankees’ reported final offer of as much as $154 million over seven years.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a policy against speaking about free agent negotiations and somehow managed to remain under the radar until tonight, when rumors began swirling that the Phillies were the “mystery team” Jon Heyman of SI.com had been speculating about without knowing (or at least revealing) their identity.
Sure enough, Amaro swooped in and now Lee re-joins a pitching staff with fellow aces Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels for what has a chance to be one of the best rotations of all time.
Lee spent a half-season with the Phillies in 2009, going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 regular season starts and dominating in five playoff outings as the team fell to the Yankees in the World Series. He was under contract for another season, but Amaro traded him to the Mariners for prospects last December 16 and filled his spot atop the rotation with Halladay.
Lee repeatedly spoke about enjoying his time in Philadelphia, but with the Phillies seemingly having little payroll room to get into a bidding war for him after adding Oswalt’s hefty contract at midseason the Yankees and Rangers emerged as the presumed favorites. Turns out, Amaro was doing his work without leaking any information to the media and Lee was shockingly willing to leave as much as $50 million on the table to return to Philadelphia.