The agent for former Philadelphia Phillies infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison reported Tuesday that he has signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. While the right-handed hitting, role player is expected to report initially to AAA Round Rock, he could join the big club sooner, rather than later. With this possibility, let's answer a few questions fans may have about the signing.
Who is Josh Harrison?
As a two-time All-Star selection (2014 and 2017), Harrison signed with the Phillies at the beginning of the season. Something clearly wasn't working, though. With just a .204 batting average in 40 games with Philly, and three doubles in 104 at-bats, his production has been nothing short of abysmal.
It should be pointed out that Harrison just celebrated his 36th birthday last month, but that certainly doesn't put him in the category of Methuselah, or even Julio Franco for that matter. But, it does make him closer to retirement than probably every player on the current 40-man roster, aside from Max Scherzer. Although, Scherzer's gem from Monday night shows he might not be anywhere close to calling it a career yet, either.
In any case, Harrison has never really shown any power in his career. He hit a career high 16 home runs in 2017 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And as for contact, 2014 is the only season where he finished with an average over .300. That doesn't mean he hasn't shown much proficiency at the plate, though. The 5'8" native of Cincinnati is what one might call a "doubles machine."
He hit a career high 38 two-baggers in 2014, followed by seasons of 29, 25, 26, and 33 in his following full seasons of play. Take note that 2018, 2019 and 2020 were omitted from this on account of injuries and shortened league schedules. But, that 33 double season came in 2021 in a season split between the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics. And while he sports only one .300+ season as a hitter, he's still batted around the .270-.280 mark in his healthy seasons, meaning he does get on base. He isn't a player that strikes out often, but he also doesn't walk often. He relies mostly on bullets to the gap.
He also has experience at every position with the exception of catcher. Believe it or not, he even has five innings pitched to his ledger in his career over six appearances, with a 19.80 earned run average. Rest assured though; it would have to be some kind of major catastrophe to ask that of him at this point. (Pay no attention to the fact that the Phillies called on him this season to pitch.)
What could he bring to Texas?
At the moment, the Rangers have rookie third baseman Josh Jung sidelined on the 10-day IL with a thumb fracture. While initial reports are that Jung will be out for essentially the remainder of the regular season, the rookie has stated he intends to "beat the clock." Even if he does come back early by two weeks, that's still several weeks the Rangers will have to play without his bat in the lineup in the regular season. In the off chance that there's a setback in the recovery, there would be a gap to fill for the playoff roster.
According to MLB rules, a player must hold a spot on either the 40-man roster or the 60-day injured list as of 11:59 PM ET on August 31 to be eligible for a team's postseason roster. Obviously, that doesn't apply to Jung, who currently fits the requirements, but a move or two could be made to get Harrison onto the 40-man before that deadline.
Now, although a case for Harrison could be made that he's simply a "warm body" to fill a spot, perhaps some time with hitting coach Tim Hyers could help things out a bit for him and bring his swing back.
At the end of the season, signing Harrison could end up as just a blip of a moment for the 2023 Texas Rangers. But these are the kind of moves that could pay dividends later on for very little cost up front. The franchise has a history of these type of moves.
They did this in 2010 by trading for Jeff Francoeur in August, who went on to bat .340 in 15 games down the stretch with nine runs scored and 11 RBIs. Prior to that, they swung an August deal for John Burkett, the winner of the first Rangers playoff game in team history in 1996. And the best example might be when the Rangers signed lefty Tony Fossas as a free agent on August 19, 1998. He went on to pitch 7 1/3 scoreless relief innings in September as the Rangers took home their second division title in a three-year span.
Time will tell whether this pays off or not, but considering the lack of risk involved, what is there to lose? After all, the team is clearly all-in this season and it's about time fans see that mentality in action in Arlington.