Yanks looking at Rich Harden?

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I gotta say, I was a bit surprised to see this one pop up on MLB Trade Rumors. But apparently, at least according to one source, the Yanks have some interest in Oakland righty Rich Harden.

On the surface, it’s hard not to salivate at this one. Harden is a nasty, nasty pitcher when healthy. Unfortunately, health has not been his forte. His career high in innings pitched came during his second major league season, at age 22 in 2004. He tossed 189.7 innings that year, to a 3.99 ERA. He was good, but not great that year, striking out 167 and walking 81.

The next year, however, was when he shined (shone?). His 2.53 ERA told part of the story, but his 121 strikeouts to 43 walks told another: That of an improving pitcher. However, he missed significant time during the season with an oblique injury, which sidelined him from May 14th through June 20th, and then another torso injury which had him pitching zero games between August 20th and September 24th. Even after that, he finished the season in the bullpen, and wound up with 128 innings pitched.

The next two seasons were far uglier, as he posted a combined 72.1 innings, including just 25.2 last year. His talent is still undeniable — that splitter is among the best, if not the best itself, among active players. However, the injury concerns are just too great for the Yanks to take on this season.

The San Francisco Chronicle article I linked earlier notes that Billy Beane would likely be looking for Ian Kennedy for starters, and likely Alan Horne and Jeff Marquez on top of that. In other words, there will be a discount, but it won’t be much. Those three for a healthy and productive Harden would be a good deal. Those three, or even just IPK and Horne, for a questionable Harden is an undue risk.

Remember, we’re still trying to figure out how to fill innings. In that regard, Kennedy has superb value for the Yankees. He has an innings cap for sure, but it will be well above that of Joba and Phil. I don’t see how anyone can expect more than 100 innings from Harden. And if he hurts himself again, the entire trade is a bust. The Yanks will have given up hundreds of innings of at least replacement level pitching (presumably) for an oft-injured starter who, even if healthy, won’t give them the innings they need.

It’s a great idea in theory. But communism works, in theory. If Harden gets through the year healthy, he should be eligible for free agency after the 2009 season. Maybe, then, we can start talking about trading for Harden this winter. But until he gets through 100, 120 innings without hitting the DL, I’d keep my hands off, despite the glorious upside he presents.

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  • Geno

    Beane’s got cojones, I’ll give him that. I wouldn’t do this even if it were just for Kennedy. A collection of minor leaguers, say Horne, Marquez & Gardner? Sure.

  • Mike R.

    Maybe they’re looking to replace Pavano’s spoton the roster. We lose him after this season.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      To be fair, Harden did make two more starts than Pavano did last year and nine more than Pavano did in 2006. Baby steps.

  • TurnTwo

    yeah, i would imagine this is where Brett Gardner’s great spring comes into play.

    it was reported last year that Beane had interest in Gardner when rumors swirled around the Yankees and Dan Johnson, which Cashman shot down. But, for a high upside pitcher like Harden, as much as I like Gardner as a ballplayer, I’d take the risk.

    The key, as noted, is Harden’s health. So far this spring, he’s stated numerous times he’s feeling great to the point where he’s starting to get angry about having to answer the same questions. And, he’s pitched the hell out of the ball to boot.

    IPK is too expensive, and I wouldnt really touch the current 25 man roster to make this move. But would I move some combo of Gardner and Horne and/or Marquez to try my luck? Surely, and Billy Beane would be hard pressed to find another deal offering as much in potential MLB-ready players for someone with the injury history Harden has.

  • Steve S

    No way does Beane believe that he can get that for Harden. He is probably floating the theory through the papers to get the Yankees interets. There is no team in baseball that would give up that much for Harden.

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  • Stephen

    There’s no way the Yanks are going to consider giving up IPK, Beane’s probably just putting his name out there as a bargaining tool. I would certainly be tempted by a deal centered around Horne and Gardner, as an earlier poster said. Does anyone know when Harden’s contract is up? Because I would be interested in the Yanks to taking a flier on him, maybe on a Lieber-like deal.

    BTW, nice Simpsons reference.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Heh. I can’t say the words “in theory” without at least thinking: “I agree with you, Marge, in theory. And communism works, in theory.”

      Anyway, Harden is team-controlled until after the 2009 season. At that point, he’ll be a free agent. He does have a 2009 team option for $7 mm, though. If they decline that, he’ll have to agree to a new contract, or else hit arbitration.

  • Sam

    I love this deal, it would clear up more spot starts for Joba provided Harden doesn’t get too healthy.

  • Yankee Clipper

    Billy Beane is crazy! The Yankees would be crazier to give up that potential for another injury riddled pitcher! I would be willing to part with Horne or Marquez, perhaps, but only one of them. IPK is off the table though. I, for one, am tired of Billy Beane constantly looking to fleece the Yanks in his never ending rebuilding process that has yet to yield Wolrd Series, let alone an AL Pennant.

  • Jon W.

    This is all just rumor mongoring, as Beane won’t trade Harden for anythnig less than IPK, Horne and Marquez, and the Yanks won’t give up that much to get him. It would be a bold move, but one the Yanks can’t make, and would never make. Nice fodder for discussion on message boards, but nothing more.

  • E-ROC

    Harden is damaged goods. Pass.

  • Ricochet

    The Yankees are loaded with quality minor league pitchers and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Yankees rolling the dice on Harden but not for IPK. A package that included Horne and Marquez would be fine IMO because Horne’s what 1 year younger than Harden and the fact that there isn’t room in the rotation for those 2 anyways.

  • Tripp

    Wait until he gets non-tendered and then go after him like all the teams did for Prior.

  • Big Stick

    Billy Beane is the best GM in baseball. That said, why should he take less for Harden? Harden has more upside than any of the pitchers mentioned in the rumor.

    Why is it that Yankee fans, in particular, always think that their prospects are way better than anyone elses? That is because for years, there was no such thing as a Yankee prospect. Minor leaguers were only trade bait.

    Harden will return to greatness and all of you will eat your negative words.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      I love substance-less predictions!

  • mustang

    OK… After the Santana situation you guys have to be kidding me. IPK for Harden only If Cashman is high. Wow, I can’t believe we are even talking about this.
    I agree with Joseph P. on Big Stick comments. “Billy Beane is the best GM in baseball” No way, best con artist yes. How many championships has Mr. Billy “Hardball” Beane won, THE END.

  • Rich

    Cash is merely doing his due diligence.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Might not even be doing that. This is all according to “one source.” Hence the “Irresponsible Rumormongering” label.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    I feel obligated to note this: Harden’s shoulder trouble had nothing to do with pitching. He injured it while diving for a dinky little pop-up in foul territory in Oakland one day. I remember watching it on TV in complete disbelief.

  • bruce

    i would trade melky,horne,marquez for harden but not kennedy.harden is better when healthy but to risky.if harden goes down then the yankees will be in trouble.gardner can play center field.

  • Tom

    I would risk only Kennedy and Marquez. Horne is better than Kennedy this very moment and Marquez will be #4 fodder at best with his stuff.

    The way the AL East is shaping up, I honestly don’t think the Yankees will go anywhere unless they take some risks. The talent lost IS NOT nut busting. Kennedy will be a #3 in his prime and Marquez will be the aforementioned #4. I wouldn’t pull the trigger if Horne goes in there, but this rotation could use Harden badly. Free agency will mean the Yanks lose a first round pick if he DOES get healthy and perform. Personally, I’d rather have a shot at a first rounder than Harden. I’m still praying 1B Justin Smoak gets hurt or asks for a lot of money because I really want him to fall in the draft :D

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Alan Horne has better pure stuff than IPK, but there’s no way he’s the better pitcher.

      I’d do Horne-Marquez-Gardner for Harden. Even if Harden busts out, he makes peanuts, and the Yanks have the depth to absorb the lost of those 3 prospect. If he works out though, man that would be awesome.

  • dm31078

    I think that Harden could be a very interesting aquisition if down the line the yankees looked to move him to the back of the pen as a closer when Mo’s time is up. His stuff is fantastic, and maybe pitching an inning at a time will keep him healthy.

  • Phil

    DON’T DO IT! As a Cardinal fan, just remember that Beane always has a motive…look what we gave up for Mark Mulder (who’s been on our IR since)…Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton. If only we had a 1-2 punch of Haren and Wainwright at the top of our rotation today…