Pirates sign Josh Harrison to contract extension worth up to $50 million

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Josh Harrison had a breakout 2014 for the Pirates, becoming a full-time player for the first time at age 26, making the All-Star team, and hitting .315 with 13 homers and an .837 OPS. And now he’s gotten a big payday to match.

Harrison has agreed to a a four-year, $27.3 million contract that includes team options for 2019 and 2020 that could push the total value of the deal over $50 million. This year’s $2.8 million salary for his first season of arbitration eligibility gets folded into the deal. Pittsburgh now has team control of Harrison through his age-32 season, including his first three years of free agency.

Here’s the year-by-year breakdown of the contract:

Signing bonus: $1 million
2015: $2.8 million
2016: $5 million
2017: $7.5 million
2018: $10 million
2019: $10.5 million option or $1 million buyout
2020: $11.5 million option or $500,000 buyout

Obviously the Pirates on banking on the Harrison they saw last season being the real deal. He hit just .250 with seven homers and a .648 OPS in 229 games through his first three seasons in the majors, but posted much better numbers in the minors. And for Harrison he gets life-changing money one year removed from being a relative afterthought in the Pirates’ plans.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?