July 30, 2011
Harden DOES NOT Knock
This deal, done according to various sources and therefore analyzed by us, appears to have fallen through and thus our take is now moot. Here is how we saw the deal as reported, a rare instance of our providing you with a Non-Transaction Analysis.--Ed.
The Red Sox seemed to enter the season stocked with sufficient starting pitching to survive a nuclear holocaust without having to resort to a four-man rotation, but despite their best efforts, that hoariest of baseball clichés—you can never have enough pitching—has come back to haunt them. With Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the season, Clay Buchholz struggling with a mysterious back issue, John Lackey among the league’s most unwatchable arms, and Jon Lester having recently returned from his own back-related DL stint, Boston’s rotation has rarely resembled the team’s pre-season blueprints, and the result has been entirely too much Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield, not to mention enough outings from Alfredo Aceves to qualify the swingman for hazard pay in the second half.
Enter Rich Harden, who has more often been the injured pitcher in need of a replacement than the healthy hurler stepping up in someone else’s stead. Harden’s Oakland homecoming was spoiled by a shoulder strain that kept him on the DL through June; in his five starts since then, he’s lowered his walk rate from its elevated levels over the past two seasons and demonstrated that his strikeout stuff is still intact.
However, Harden has continued to be plagued by gopher-itis: since the start of 2009, the righty has allowed 47 homers in 49 starts (and since he isn’t known for going deep into games, those big flies have come fast and furious). Despite its reputation as an offensive park—based largely on its tendency to promote doubles—Fenway isn’t much more homer-happy than the Coliseum, so it’s not as if every Harden start for the Sox will be set to the “1812 Overture,” but the success that might be expected of a pitcher with his other peripherals will continue to elude him as long as he keeps serving his strikeouts with a side of meatballs.
As Kevin noted, unless the player to be named later turns out to be Superman, the Sox gave up little of value (and even less of value to them) to add Harden, who could give them an effective fourth (or third, depending on Buchholz’s status) starter in a seven-game series. That makes this a low-risk, moderately high-reward move, despite the very real risk that Harden won’t be able to answer the bell when Terry Francona rings it over the rest of the season.—Ben Lindbergh
Acquired 1B-L Lars Anderson and a PTBNL from the Red Sox for RHP Rich Harden. [7/30]
The A's had their eyes on Anderson, who was born in Oakland, in the 2006 draft, but he priced himself out of the market and dropped to the 18th round. The Red Sox selected him, and Anderson signed for $825,000. Unfortunately, other than a fantastic 2008 campaign, he's done little to justify the price. A big second half in 2010 earned him a brief big-league callup, but Anderson’s struggles in Triple-A continued this year. He sports a career Triple-A line of .261/.351/.424, well below expectations for a slow, first base-only type. He's a well below-average runner but an adequate defender, and while Anderson displays excellent plate discipline, he's stiff at the dish, has a line-drive swing that features little power despite a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, and often finds himself behind on good fastballs. Anything for Rich Harden is a nice return, but Anderson's prospect light has long since faded, and it's hard to figure out where he fits in a system that already has a disappointing first-base prospect at Triple-A in Chris Carter. —Kevin Goldstein
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.