Sep 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Aaron Harang (34) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
On June 2nd 1999 the Rangers drafted Aaron Harang in the 6th round out of San Diego State. More than 15 years later Aaron has made a successful Major League career for himself in a number of different locations, none of which have been Texas. Traded before he made it to The Show, Harang continued to ascend until he came up with the A’s and later made a name for himself with the Reds.
I must admit, I have always been impartial to Aaron Harang. He seems to have always flown under the radar (maybe part of the reason I like him) though. Harang has never been an All-Star, never made an appearance in the post season, and has bounced around between five different franchises since 2011. Despite being 6’7”, it feels as though Harang has been pretty easy to miss.
Despite his low profile, Harang has also had three 4.5+ WAR seasons with Cincinnati highlighted by a 6 win 2007 campaign in which he finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. He pitched over 200 innings for the fourth time in his career last season with the Braves and as a 36 year old sported a 3.57 ERA; Aaron Harang earned 1 million dollars last year. With 352 career starts and 122 wins under his belt, Harang should without a doubt be considered a solid back of the rotation veteran option.
Apparently the Phillies believe so.
Yesterday Harang was inked to a 1 year 5 million dollar deal to come on board with the struggling Phillies to help eat up some innings. My interest in Aaron Harang’s destination lies in pure curiosity. I wonder if the Rangers made any attempt to sign Harang this offseason or ever really inquired at all. It has been pretty widely speculated that the Rangers have approximately 10 or so million dollars in payroll flexibility for 2015 so they could have matched Philadelphia’s offer should they have chosen to.
Obviously, Harang would eat up nearly half of that available capital and thwart the Rangers’ ability to sign a potentially better, more lucrative player. Still, 5 million dollars seems like a pretty doable sum for a legitimate back-end starter to fill in behind Colby Lewis.
Think of it this way, who would you rather have:
Player A: Career 2.62 SO/W ratio, 7.3 SO/9, 2.8 W/9, and 206 innings pitched per 162 game average
Player B: Career 1.84 SO/W ratio, 5.4 SO/9, 2.9 w/9, and 159 innings pitched per 162 game average
Player A is Aaron Harang; Harang will be paid 5 million dollars in 2015. Player B is Ross Detwiler; Detwiller will be paid more than the 3 million he received in arbitration last season and additionally cost the Rangers prospects Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos.
Sure, one would be quick to point out that Detwiler is considerably younger and might not yet have tapped into his full potential. To that, it is worth noting that Detwiler has now thrown nearly 500 (471) Major League innings, time enough to acclimate to the highest tier of play. Also, both players have just one-year deals (Detwiler is a free agent at 2015’s end), thus making age less of an issue than durability. In durability, Harang has the obvious advantage with a track record as a workhorse and having pitched more than Detwiler career high in innings (164.1) seven times in his career.
Detwiler’s career WHIP of 1.374 is higher than Harang’s 1.357 and had an even higher WHIP of 1.508 in the minors, suggesting his one nearly full season in 2012 may very well have been an aberration from the norm.
I am not aiming to solely discount Detwiler or lament over the loss of a potential addition in Harang. My point is simply to juxtapose the two pitchers and wonder why Texas chased the former. There is precedent in Texas for approaching older players with bigger injury histories than Harang (Brandon Webb) or with bigger salaries (Lance Berkman), so a free agent signing of this type shouldn’t be groundbreaking by any means.
As someone on the outside looking in, all I can do is speculate. But, subjective as I might be, 5 million to Aaron Harang makes more sense than 3+ million and a couple prospects for Detwiler to me. If the Rangers put all their eggs in one basket on one player, so to speak, eating up the rest of their available cash, the course of actions taken might make more sense. Only time will tell, Spring Training is still a ways away. In any event, I hope Harang has a good season for himself. And that Detwiler surpasses the expectations I have for him. For the Rangers to get back into any sort of playoff race, he will have to.