Why Won’t Mets Get Aaron Harang?

The Dodgers traded excess starter Aaron Harang to the Rockies, who promptly DFA’d him. The Mets, in need of starting pitching, reportedly are not interested. Why not?

For the Rockies, this deal was about dumping catcher Ramon Hernandez‘s salary ($3.2M), and saving a few bucks — the Dodgers are also sending $4.25M in cash to Colorado to offset Harang’s $7M salary, and hoping to flip Harang for something of value. There’s a $2M buyout of a 2014 option in Harang’s contract, which it would seem the Rockies would have to pay that if he’s released and he somehow hooks on elsewhere and reaches its goals(?) — in which case, they’re not saving any money, because $7M + $2M bonus – $4.25M offset by Dodgers = $4.75M. The option for 2014 vests if Harang pitches at least 360 innings between 2012 and 2013, including 175 IP in 2013 (he threw 179 innings last year).

If my understanding of the contract — and my math — is right, then Harang has to pitch 181 innings this year for the option to vest at $7M for 2014. That will be tough to do unless he joins a team’s starting rotation immediately and doesn’t miss a start.

Oh — is that why the Mets aren’t interested in adding a veteran innings-eater to protect their young hurlers? Are they genuinely afraid that Harang will be healthy and effective enough to make 30 starts, and average 6 innings per start?

After a strong start to his career, Harang had an awful stretch from 2008-2010, then was rejuvenated in San Diego — the place where all bad pitchers go to resurrect themselves. He followed it up with a solid if unspectacular season in LA, posting a 10-10 record and 3.61 ERA in 31 starts. However, his walk rate jumped to an unsightly 4.3 BB/9 IP; something he was able to get away with because his HR rate dropped to a svelte 0.7 HR/9. He doesn’t strike out many batters and never did — the 6.6 K/9 last year is below his career rate, but his career rate of 7.3 is slightly skewed by his two dominant seasons in ’06 and ’07.

The wheels came off in ’08 when he experienced “forearm tightness” and related elbow issues — which he( blamed on Dusty Baker). Those type of ailments almost always signify an inflamed UCL, but he did not undergo Tommy John surgery, and perhaps “gritting through it” was the reason for his dramatic decline from ’08 to ’10. Chronic elbow pain could also explain Harang’s similarly significant control problems — that 4.3 BB/9 is about double what it was from ’05-’09.

At this point in his career, he’s a fastball/slider guy who mixes in a cutter, but it’s basically all the same speed, so he doesn’t fool anyone. His mechanics are flawed and his elbow ligament might be hanging by a thread. He doesn’t strike out many, and he walks far too many. Somehow, though, he trudges through and eats innings — don’t ask me how.

Maybe that’s why the Mets aren’t interested — as desperate as they are to find a starter, maybe they’re genuinely concerned that Harang WILL be the answer in 2013, earn the $7M option for 2014, and then blow out his elbow. But, this is the same team that wasn’t concerned about Shaun Marcum‘s chronic arm issues, and besides, if they’re worried about Harang’s health, they can buy out the option for $2M. Who knows, though — maybe the Marcum situation was a wake-up call announcing that signing old pitchers with bad arms is a bad idea; it would help explain the Mets’ similar disinterest in formerly beloved Chris Young.

Or, maybe the Rockies are expecting to get more in return for Harang than the Mets are willing to pay. There are already rumors that the Red Sox could be calling Colorado, as well as the Twins and Astros. If Harang is released outright, I’d think the Mets would kick the tires on him, but if acquiring him requires a young prospect, I can understand why they’d balk.

Regardless of the Harang situation, the Mets need to find an arm somewhere, soon. There is a mix of fragile and young arms in the bullpen that won’t hold up over a long haul of 4- and 5-inning starts by the likes of Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Hefner — and when the bullpen becomes strained, you’ll see the starters pushed harder to go an extra inning or two, perhaps beyond what they should be doing. The cumulative effect could be damaging beyond 2013.

What’s your thought? Should the Mets make a pitch for Aaron Harang? If not Harang, is there someone else out there worth considering? Do you think they can handle their issues internally? Why or why not?

Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Dan B April 8, 2013 at 9:47 am
    How many of us honestly care about starts by anyone other then Harvey, Neese, and maybe Gee? Don’t get me wrong, I was excited by the win, but I watch the games thinking, how does this effect the future?
  2. BrooklynLou April 8, 2013 at 10:12 am
    … or they take the novel approach and treating Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Hefner as the equivalent of a pitching platoon. Have them take turns pitching 3-4 innings all out and then hand it off to the next guy. On the rare occasion that one is actually doing well, treat the other guy as the long reliever that week. The reality is that both of them are long reliever types – I’m curious to see if two long relievers can make one decent starter.
  3. Dan B April 8, 2013 at 10:45 am
    Ooops, I meant that post for the game wrap up, but it works here, too. Don’t forget, the Mets are still counting on promoting Wheeler and getting Marcum coming back. Personally, I would still add an arm if only because the Mets are losing fan interest in this year.
  4. Paul Festa April 8, 2013 at 11:08 am
    If they can get him cheap, I’d rather see Harang than Laffey.
  5. J April 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    I’d be interested in replacing Laffey as I see him more of the 4-5 inning pitcher and Hafner as the 5-6 inning guy. We really only need one additional starter if we’re planning on promoting wheeler this year. The leftover starter, Hefner/Laffey, can either be dealt or moved to long relief. And the worst bullpen option can either rest up or get sent down.
  6. Dan Capwell April 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm
  7. DaveSchneck April 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm
    Capuano makes a lot more sense, but the Dodger asking price may be too high. I am not thrilled with Laffey, less thrilled with Hefner-Laffey and Gee-Hefner-Laffey. I think McHugh may be better than Laffey, and Harang at this point, but he is too similar to Gee & Hefner. The one advantage Laffey has is leftiness. Having three finesse RHP in a row spells bigger trouble, even if Harang is better than Laffey (if healthy). I will give the Mets until the end of this month to assess Marcum, the performance of the rotation back-end, and the development of Wheeler.
  8. Tommy2cat April 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm
  9. Eric Schwartz April 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm
    Mets have so many solid minor league pitchers coming up they don’t need Harang. By 2015 they should have, except for perhaps the Nationals, the strongest starting staff in baseball.
    • Joe Janish April 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm
      OK but 2015 is two years away. Where are all these great minor league pitchers RIGHT NOW, while Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey are making starts?

      It’s nice to think about what may happen in the future, but in the meantime, there is the now to be concerned with.

      • Quinn April 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm
        Aside from Wheeler and Syndegard,who are all these great young pitching prospects? and since when is adding depth either now or when our sure fire prospects come up a bad thing? As stated earlier they have to protect the arms in the bullpen, they cant afford to have effective relivers flame out similiar to feliciano,or byrdak or beato, Imagine if that happens to Famillia or Parnell.
  10. AC Wayne April 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm
    Mets have already committed $36M in three pitchers (Santana, Marcum, and Francisco) that have done nothing and may not do anything this season, Santana we know for sure, you can’t blame them for being hesitant in bringing in a guy like Harang, I agree w/DaveSchneck, use the whole month and see where you’re at at the start of May
    • Joe Janish April 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm
      So, because there is $36M tied up in three pitchers, that means the Mets can’t look at any other pitchers?

      I’m not suggesting that Harang is the answer, but I’m curious how that logic applies to anyone else who may become available. Are the Mets doomed to audition AAAA slugs like Laffey for the rest of the season, thus over-stressing the rest of the pitching staff?

      • DaveSchneck April 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm
        Just for the record, I am saying that the Mets should go no longer than this month. I’ll take an upgrade tomorrow if one is available and does not cost a quality prospect. I refuse to accept that 2013 is hopeless at this stage of the season, regardless of how they stack up “on paper”. As you say, beef up the arms to protect the youngsters and to give the team a chance for more wins.
  11. Dan B April 9, 2013 at 10:05 am
    Are we punting 2014 already? Is this part of the Alderson plan, also?
  12. Joe April 9, 2013 at 11:30 am
    I guess McHugh is going to stay in the AAA and blog/tweet? I continue not to support this “Hefner is a loser” concept though if Marcum is going to be gone long term (which the Mets apparently isn’t quite ready to accept), and even if not, sure, another arm would be useful. Just one, probably can survive with Laffey to eat up some innings in relief until Wheeler. Something that the ASTROS might get leaves something to be desired, but he’s an option. A NY Daily News writer suggested Capauno and Lilly might be due up. The former amounts to a five to six inning pitcher. Wouldn’t mind seeing Lilly in NYC again. Guy reminds me of the coach on Friday Night Lights.
  13. Zach April 10, 2013 at 11:47 pm
    Yes. Get Harang, even if hes a bust it will keep a veteran pitcher on the staff and he can even help the youngsters out by giving them more time and advice. If he isnt a bust then we get a veteran starter and we can make Hefner and Laffey pitch 3-4 innings each and start them every other 5th day. I think they are their best for about 3-4 innings.