Matt Harrison hasn’t pitched since April 6 because of back problems that required two surgeries and the Rangers announced that he’s been shut down for the remainder of the season.
Harrison was a huge part of Texas’ success during the past two seasons, throwing 400 innings with a 3.34 ERA to emerge as one of the league’s best left-handed starters, and this is the first season of a five-year, $55 million contract extension that was signed in January.
Harrison was cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment in late July and had been hoping to rejoin the Rangers after 4-5 starts, but he struggled in a start last week at Triple-A and the team decided he’s simply not making enough progress. Colby Lewis is also out for the entire season following hip surgery, so the Rangers’ decision to pony up for Matt Garza has saved them from scrambling for rotation depth.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.