Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Rangers traded veteran starter Kevin Millwood to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Chris Ray. But it took Rangers GM Jon Daniels less than three hours to fill the spot Millwood vacated in his rotation.
According to NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra, the Rangers have signed right-hander Rich Harden to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million that also includes a club option for 2011 worth $11.5 million.
Harden, 28, is one of the most injury-prone pitchers in baseball, but he is also one of the most dominant starters around when healthy. He was able to make 26 starts for the Chicago Cubs last season, and went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.
But Harden’s true calling is the strikeout. Using a devastating fastball-changeup combination, he whiffed an incredible 171 batters in 141 innings of work, leading all pitchers who tossed at least 100 frames with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Harden — who owns a 3.39 career ERA and 1.24 lifetime WHIP — was considered a target of the Red Sox, who have developed a track record of attempting to revive fragile veteran starters.
Instead, Harden now represents a considerable risk for the Rangers, whose owner, Tom Hicks, has experienced severe financial troubles in recent months. Texas cleared $9 million of payroll off its books by exporting Millwood, but the franchise’s financial strings are still tight.
Harden, however, could be a Cy Young contender if he is able to make 30 or more starts for the first time since 2004, and that upside was seemingly too much for Daniels to overlook.