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Is Rich Harden worth the risk?

Aug 25, 2009, 9:50 AM EDT

The Tribune’s Paul Sullivan notes the dilemma the Cubs face this offseason in connection with Rich Harden:

Harden has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter in the second half with a 3-1 record and 1.64 earned-run average, with a 4-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. But he could become a sought-after free agent after the season, so the Cubs have to make a decision on how much they’re willing to offer him . . . Signing Harden to a four-year deal for $50 million-$60 million is risky, but that’s probably what they will have to pay to keep him.

The “risky” part is the rub, of course.  When Harden is healthy, he is very very good, but he’s only started 30 games and/or thrown 150+ innings once, and that was in 2004.  In terms of health and effectiveness when healthy there’s an argument to be made that he’s the pitching equivalent of Milton Bradley, and look how well that risk worked out for the Cubs.

Of course, good pitching is a bit harder to find than DH/corner outfielder types, so there’s a chance that Jim Hendry and the Cubs’ new ownership group may be willing to take another Bradleyesque risk.  I’m not sure I would.

  1. Alex K - Aug 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM

    Thinking about if the Cubs are going to do this makes my head hurt. I think because he is a pitcher they almost have to pony up the money. He’s been pretty healthy (for him) since coming to Chicago, so maybe the Cubs have figured out the right way to keep him healthyish.

  2. Grant - Aug 25, 2009 at 11:23 AM

    I wouldn’t do it if I were them.
    Also, a quibble: The quoted article makes use of one of my pet peeves – “Harden has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter in the second half with a 3-1 record and 1.64 earned-run average…”
    I wish writers wouldn’t use “consistent” as a replacement for “good.” Harden has been the Cubs’ best starter in the second half. At least use “most consistently good,” because lord knows there are plenty of consistently bad starters floating around out there.
    I realize this is a small thing. But it’s always bugged me. Maybe I got it from Ken Tremendous or something.

  3. scatterbrian - Aug 25, 2009 at 1:06 PM

    “Now that I have kids, I feel a lot better having a gun in the house.”
    “I don’t know the guy, but I’ve got two kidneys and he needs one, so I figured..”
    “Normally I wear protection, but then I thought, ‘When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?'”
    “Yes he’s got an extensive injury history, and he averages less than 6 innings per start, but I figured Cubs fans deserved a consistent starting pitcher.”
    Bad idea.

  4. Marshall Riddel - Jan 17, 2010 at 3:24 AM

    Very interesting read. Thanks.

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