Matt Harrison quietly established himself as a cornerstone of the starting rotation for the Texas Rangers during the 2012 season and, according to ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett, the 27 year old left-hander and the team have started discussions about a possible contract extension. Talks are still very much in their early stages and it’s uncertain if a deal will be reached before the season begins.
Harrison made 32 starts for the Rangers this past season, throwing 213.1 innings (including 4 complete games). He appeared in his first career All Star Game and posted an 18-11 mark with a 3.29 ERA and 1.261 WHIP. It marked the second consecutive season in which he made 30+ starts, after going 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA in 2011. Harrison heads into the 2012 season as the presumptive #2 starter in the team’s rotation behind Yu Darvish.
He remains arbitration eligible for two more seasons after earning roughly $2.95 Million this past season.
Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement before or during Spring Training, Harrison has expressed a desire to wait until after the season concludes to resume discussions in order to avoid becoming a distraction. Texas signed two of their players – Derek Holland and Ian Kinsler – to long term deals last Spring. Holland’s contract was signed during Spring Training. Kinsler’s was done just a few days after the season began.
Holland’s extension is particularly notable. He signed a five year deal valued at $26 Million, complete with a pair of options that could bring the total value close to $45 Million. Holland had been coming off of his best season, in which he went 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA, and had pitched well for the Rangers during the previous year’s World Series. As Michael Goldermann discussed yesterday at Nolan Writin’, Holland’s extension is likely a good starting point to work from when trying to predict what Harrison may be looking at. Harrison is more of a ground ball pitcher (an appealing factor given the team’s home ballpark), isn’t nearly the same swing-and-miss type starter as he relies more on control than power, and has largely outperformed his peripherals. Essentially Harrison is more likely to maintain his level of success, rather than see a steep regression. Goldermann suggests a five year, $45 Million deal could be a reasonable figure to expect the sides to agree upon, with possible options that could bring the total value as high as $60 Million.
Texas has consistently been one of the top teams in the American League over the past few seasons, despite losing numerous players (first C.J. Wilson, more recently Josh Hamilton and Michael Young) through free agency and trades. Maintaining a strong pitching staff is going to be essential if the team is to continue being among the league’s premier teams and locking up another key piece of that staff may prove to be a significant move in the long haul.