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Oakland and Cleveland Can’t Work Out Trade for Harden

August 22, 2011

You heard it on the Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan first but Rich Harden will be a member of the A’s for the remainder of the 2011 season. During Friday’s game during the Live Blog, I wrote,

“Given [Harden’s] decent performance (and tonight it is thus far stellar) this year and the interest of clubs like the Red Sox and Yankees in him at the trade deadline, it wasn’t surprising the A’s put him on waivers to explore options for potentially dealing him. Ken Rosenthal of reported that he was placed on waivers on the 15th, so I asked Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area Newsgroup about this and he as always was helpful. I knew that teams had 48 hours to make a claim, meaning that if someone claimed Harden it would have happened already, but what if someone had claimed him, how long did they have to work out a deal? Stiglich answered that once a team puts in a claim they have 48 (more) hours to work out a deal. I don’t think Harden could have possibly gone through waivers unclaimed, so if he was claimed, it’d seem a deal could not be worked out (or a team did it merely as a block) because we certainly are very close to that second 48 hour mark at this point if not already past it.”

Well alas he was placed on waivers, and indeed he did not clear waivers. Buster Olney of ESPN tweets,

Rich Harden was pulled back from waivers after being claimed. Cleveland, the team awarded the claim, couldn’t work out a deal.”

This is not particularly surprising as the Indians are a team devoid of corner outfielders (in fact they themselves are desperate for one) and third basemen who would potentially fulfill needs that the A’s have. I suppose that Cleveland was mostly using this as a block move to prevent Detroit from acquiring Harden, and while the Yankees were well known to be scouting him, it seems that both the Angels and Red Sox (who as we all know attempted to send Lars Anderson Oakland-bound in exchange for Harden at the deadline) would have had interest as well.

The A’s signed Harden last December to a $1.5M one-year pact. In Spring Training he was shut down after suffering lat stiffness and did not take the mound in a game until June 20th when pitching for Sacramento he faced the Fresno Grizzlies. He finally made his Oakland debut on July 1st taking on the Diamondbacks. That all said, he has been solid this year. In nine starts for Oakland he has a great, 10.2 K/9 rate with a right-around his career average 4.1 BB/9. He has struggled with surrendering home runs, allowing 1.4 HR/9 despite pitching half the time in the friendly expanse of the O.Co Coliseum and sports a 3.91 ERA with a 4.12 FIP while being worth 0.6 WAR. Those 0.6 WAR are actually worth $2.5M so already the A’s have received a high amount of value from the signing.

There are rumblings that Billy Beane is interested in signing the Victoria, British Columbia native to come back and pitch in Oakland in 2012 and I am fully supportive of the idea so long as his contract is structured to reward his health (via innings and/or starts incentives) as that remains his biggest liability. Furthermore there are indications that that desire runs both ways with Harden enjoying pitching in Oakland and at the Coliseum (how a pitcher couldn’t want to pitch at the Coliseum is beyond me). This deal was a great low risk, high reward signing and though he did not fetch any great prospects at the deadline or pitch the A’s into the playoffs this was a very solid signing (along with a similar deal offered to Brandon McCarthy) that the A’s should hope to replicate in the future.

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