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Rangers give Matt Harrison five-year, $55 million contract

Jan 16, 2013, 9:48 PM EDT

Matt Harrison Getty Images

32 wins over the last two years was enough to convince the Rangers to bet heavily on Matt Harrison. They gave the 27-year-old left-hander a five-year, $55 million extension with a vesting option for 2018, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson.

Harrison, part of the Mark Teixeira deal with the Braves that also netted the Rangers Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, opened his career 16-10 with a 5.39 ERA in 32 starts and 31 relief appearances before breaking through in 2011. He’s 32-20 with a 3.34 ERA the last two years.

Of some concern going forward are Harrison’s middling strikeout rates. He got up to 6.1 K/9 IP in 2011, but he fell off to 5.6 last season and his 4.03 FIP wasn’t nearly in line with his 3.29 ERA. Still, considering that he’s a Texas pitcher, 200-inning seasons with 4.00 ERAs would still make him quite valuable to the cause.

Harrison made $2.95 million last season in his first year of arbitration. The new deal buys out the  last two of those and his first three years of free agency.

Harrison will likely start the Rangers’ first or second game this season, whichever one Yu Darvish doesn’t. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are also set to be part of a rotation that still has one opening while Colby Lewis and Feliz continue their rehab from elbow surgeries.

  1. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 16, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    “32 wins over the last two years”

    Come on, do we really have to LEAD IN to the article with wins? I feel like a jerk complaining about it, but isn’t it obvious how terrible a statistic wins are?

    • lazlosother - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:15 AM

      Yah, we know how terrible the “win” stat is, but teams still seem place value on it. Given that, the lead-in is appropriate – more so given his mediocre ERA and his lack of strikeouts. Both of which were mentioned in the post.

      • gt929 - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:23 AM

        2012 ERA 8th in the AL among starters with over 150 innings. Define mediocre?

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:02 AM

        ERA is a bad stat too. Strikeouts aren’t everything.

        You know why Edwin Jackson got a huge contract this year despite inconsistent Wins, ERA, and K/9? Consistently piling up innings. Matt kind of touches on that, but “27 year old left handed starter who can eat innings” makes a lot more sense than “won 32 games pitching for one of the best offensive teams in the majors” when explaining a $55 million contract.

      • paperlions - Jan 17, 2013 at 7:59 AM

        Actually, I doubt teams place much emphasis on pitcher wins. Fans and MSM place value on pitcher wins….pretty much no one else does.

    • Kevin Gillman - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:39 AM

      Wins put you in the postseason, and stats give you awards.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:58 AM

        You win a baseball game by scoring more runs than the other team.
        Matt Harrison didn’t win the Rangers 32 games any more than he lost them 20. That’s the point. they aren’t related. At all. There are 10+ players who contribute to a team win, having a category for pitcher wins is moronic.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        So, according to you pitching isn’t important at all, it’s all about the offense? Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me that Quality Starts mean nothing, and Joe Nathan should just start the game.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        Quality Starts are certainly a better stat than pitcher wins. 6 IP, 4.50 ERA gives your team a chance to win, which is a starting pitcher’s job. Pitcher Wins don’t quantify, or even attempt to quantify, anything that is within the control of the pitcher.

        I’m willing to bet when you have an employee review at your job and they ask what you’ve done well you don’t say “well, the company turned a profit this quarter, so I must be doing my job right.” You talk about what you specifically contributed to your company’s performance, because that’s a metric that’s relevant to you doing your job.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:21 PM

        I agree about that part of it, but I also believe in the QS more so, because it qualifies to how the starter is doing. For instance, if the pitcher gives up 7 earned runs, in 5 innings, but still win, because his team won 11-7, it doesn’t mean he had a great game. But if he gets a no decision in the next game, because he gave up 2 earned runs in 6 IP, yet game was tied or, even worse, the bullpen blows it, guess what? The no decision can be a better reflection of how the pitcher is doing. But at the same time, it doesn;t mean that someone like Joe Nathan can start a game, because we know he can’t, and it also makes the bullpen work even harder, since he can only work the 1st inning.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        OK, I really have no idea what you’re trying to say at this point.
        You say you like QS, cite an example of a pitcher win that isn’t a QS, and say he didn’t have a great game. That’s true.
        Then you cite a quality start where the pitcher got a no-decision, and say the no-decision (not the QS?) is an accurate reflection of his game. And that’s not true. Cite the QS if you want, but whatever the bullpen or offense do after a pitcher leaves the game just isn’t relevant to evaluating starting pitchers.
        And I don’t understand why you’re hung up on Joe Nathan starting. This has never been a discussion about what makes a starting pitcher vs a reliever. This is about how Pitcher Wins are a shitty, no-good, worthless method of evaluating pitchers. I don’t care if it’s the starter, the long reliever, or the closer; pitchers should be neither praised nor penalized for things which are wholly out of their control.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        My point being, and if you didn’t originally state this, I apologize, but the original statement was Matt Harrison wasn’t anything special, and anyone could have done what he did, which is why I brought up the Joe Nathan point. Meaning, if anyone can do it, let’s just have the closer start the game, and go from there.

        I used to consider myself a stats guy, I still do, but I am not all the way in on the sabermetrics, yet when I say that, people gasp that I just said the worst thing possible, because even though wins can be an overrated stat, I believe in the QS, to determine how a pitcher does in that game. If they keep their teams in the game, then they are doing their job. We can’t just discount pitching as if those stats are meaningless, because some are not.

        I hope that clears some things up for you.

    • jpack1974 - Jan 17, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      I understand what you are saying. But would respectfully like to say that a win is a win. That is what gets you in the the playoffs, into the world series, and hopefully “win” the world series. I would take bad numbers and a win any day of the week.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Matt Harrison did not “win” those 32 games. The Texas Rangers did.
        Last year Matt Harrison went 20-12, the Rangers offense also averaged 4.76 runs of support behind him.
        Felix Hernandez went 16-17, with 3.48 runs of support behind him, and was unquestionably a superior pitcher by every metric.
        The wins that Matt Harrison participated in were more valuable than King Felix’s wins, because the Rangers went to the playoffs and the Mariners did not. But that has nothing to do with whether Matt Harrison is as valuable as Felix Hernandez, or as valuable as a $55 million contract, or whether he is valuable as a player at all.

  2. dondada10 - Jan 16, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    I like Harrison. Even though his k/9 has dropped, his ERA- has improved each of his last two seasons. He was at 78 two years ago, and 75 last year. That’s damn good.

    I always look at extensions in the context of what would the pitcher get in the open market. This is a good deal for Texas.

    • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      He’s more of a ground ball pitcher. He tied with teammate CJ Wilson for most GIDPs induced in the AL in 2011, and tied for 2nd in the AL last year.

  3. giantboy99 - Jan 16, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    Classic overpay

    • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Sounds like a bargain to me. That’s less than half the price of Greinke, and he a better 2012 ERA. Also, he made half his starts in a notorious hitters’ park, as opposed to spending half of last year in the NL with no DH.

      • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:13 PM

        Oops, upon further review, Harrison was 2nd to Wilson by 1 in GIDPs in 2011.

      • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:15 PM

        And upon even further review, I put this correction in the wrong place. Let me cast my vote in favor of an HBT edit function.

  4. mazblast - Jan 16, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    I think there are other reasons they signed him to such a long deal besides the wins. They like him, he likes them, he seems to get along with everyone there, he’s durable, he keeps his team in games (50% DOM vs. 13% DIS), and he has good numbers for WHIP and Command. He’s above average for a guy who pitches in that home park.

  5. bobulated - Jan 16, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    It blows my mind how much the Braves gave away for Tex yet still have a pretty good young nucleus.

    • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:09 PM

      I’d like to mention that 21 yr old RHP Roman Mendez, acquired from Boston for Salty, is turning a few heads in the minors.

      • paperlions - Jan 17, 2013 at 8:06 AM

        He didn’t make the Rangers top 20 prospect list (, but he did get a C+ grade an is listed under other prospect.

      • gt929 - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        TBH, I don’t know much about him, but I saw this report on a Dallas Morning News Blog yesterday:

        Apparently he’s moving up the chart.

  6. beefytrout - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    Congrats Harry, you’re the man now.

  7. halohonk - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    Wow that rotation looks pretty weak. And the rest of the staff even weaker. Cant wait for Trout, Albert, Your boy Josh, Trumbo and the rest of the boys to come back Texas and watch the balls fly out of that launching pad. They gotta be licking their chops! Your best starter has to be Darvish and everybody knows his stuff this time around. Sorry Ranger fans the door closed for you guys after last season. No Josh No Young No Nap No Playoffs!

    • gt929 - Jan 16, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      Didn’t the Angels win the off-season last year too?

    • Kevin Gillman - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:47 AM

      I’m not a Rangers fan, well, actually I am, but they aren’t my number one team. @Halohunk, last season your Angels were at home watching the playoffs, and the Rangers were playing. Now, on paper you might be the favorite, but you still have to play the game. How will Ryan Madsen do after surgery? We’ll see in April.

    • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:05 AM

      Losing Michael Young makes the Rangers a better team, and you could actually argue that they lost *nothing* by letting Hamilton walk.

      If Hamilton crushes the ball, piles up PA and doesn’t get injured, and stays out of the kind of trouble that Hamilton tends to get himself into, sure, maybe the Rangers regret that decision. But given Hamilton’s track record of staying healthy and out of trouble, I kind of doubt it.

  8. halohonk - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Seriously is there any Ranger fan other than George W that thinks this years team can reach the playoffs? You had your run now your done.

    • gt929 - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:18 AM

      Were there any Angel fans who thought they wouldn’t make the playoffs last year? Really, were there any A’s fans that thought they’d win the West last year? Shall we just call off the season and give the ring to the best team on paper? Maybe you should scurry on back to Yahoo, commenters on this blog are a little more into respect, as opposed to smack.

    • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:06 AM

      I’m not a Rangers fan (Mets for life, unfortunately) but I think they are a better team than the Angels, and they may even be the best team in baseball.

  9. halohonk - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    Yea the Angels do look good on paper dont they. It always comes down to pitching and we are very deep. Our GM Jerry Dipoto is starting a trend of having a bunch of 5th-9th inning guys instead of high priced starters and a high priced closer. Yea we look good on paper and if we get off to a good start, I think 100 win season and best record in baseball is not talking smack its being realistic.

    • hardjudge - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:21 AM


  10. halohonk - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:21 AM

    Your right Kev you were in the playoffs. 1 n done. And we will see the same about Lewis & Feliz after surgerys. Ah Angels had best record in all of baseball in 2nd half. With a decent April last year we would have been in. But alas a new season. Should be fun. Play Ball!

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