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Red Sox Seek Rotation Depth: Enter Rich Harden?

July 24, 2011

With a week and several hours left to the trade deadline, the Athletics still have yet to make a move despite many pieces that may be offered on the marketplace in a trade in the next few days. The newest addition to that list is Rich Harden. Peter Gammons of MLB.com tweeted this yesterday:

“Red Sox have inquired on Harden, an intruiging stretch possibility”

Surely the Red Sox, currently 61-37 and three  games up on their arch-rival Yankees, would have been impressed with how Harden pitched yesterday against those very same Yankees earning his second victory of the season. The soon-to-be 30 year old Harden has been a good pitcher throughout his career with the one consistent problem of his being his complete lack of durability and this season is not different in that respect. Thus far this year however Harden has been rather inconsistent in his admittedly small sample size of four starts. He has a fantastic K/9 rate of 8.9, a solid 3.1 BB/9 rate though he has allowed a very high 1.9 HR/9 which explains the disparity between his pedestrian 4.63 ERA, his high 4.82 FIP and his solid 3.54 xFIP. Meanwhile lower than all these is his SIERA (which I am still becoming more and more familiar with but which takes into account factors other than just the strikeouts, walks and home runs of FIP and xFIP) which is presently a tidy 3.41. While these statistics make it unclear if Harden is really much good this year, it to me seems he has just been victimized by the long ball an inordinate amount of the time (his HR/FB is a staggering 16.7% higher than his somewhat high career mark of 10.0%) and if he reduces the frequency of home runs allowed those numbers will fall more in line with his xFIP care of his ability to strikeout people while minimizing walks. Harden benefits in SIERA from being a low BABIP, high strikeout pitcher much like a Jered Weaver so I’d say that 3.41 or 3.54 mark is closer to his true talent level this season.

Basically put, Harden would be (especially at a $1.5M contract) an incredible value for the Red Sox down the stretch. Due to his frailty I wouldn’t anticipate the A’s would get much in return but this could give the A’s an option of seeing more of Josh Outman with the big club for the last two months of the year. All in all despite the minimal returns (0.0 WAR) I am a fan of the Harden signing and would even advocate the A’s do it again next year should he be available (whether it is re-signing him or if it is re-signing him after trading him before the deadline) – very low risk, very high reward and while the rewards haven’t panned out you just never know when you might strike gold with someone like Harden.

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