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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

December 2, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Rich Harden is on Mariners’ radar

harden.jpg

The always prolific Fox boys, J.P. Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, say the Mariners’ interest in Rich Harden is heating up. The M’s have eyed Harden from the start, and I’m not surprised they’re swooping in, though the Red Sox, among others, figure to be stiff competition.

As I’ve written before, Harden has tremendous stuff and is going to have a breakout season one of these years. To me, he’s a perfect alternative to Erik Bedard for the Mariners. They have had similar careers, marked by limitless potential but frustrating injuries. Bedard has pitched in 144 games in his career (141 starts), with a 51-41 record and 3.81 ERA (822 innings, 762 hits, 801 strikeouts, 121 ERA-plus, 1.322 WHIP). Harden is younger (he turned 28 last week; Bedard turns 31 in March) and has been better: 135 games (127 starts), 50-29, 3.39 (753 innings, 603 hits, 783 strikeouts, 131 ERA-plus, 1.237 WHIP). Bedard earned $7.75 million last year, Harden $7 million.

Harden — who was selected by the Mariners in the 38th round of the 1999 draft, out of Victoria, British Columbia, but didn’t sign — made 26 starts for the Cubs last year. He was shut down in September because of shoulder fatigue, but he insists he wasn’t hurt. His ERA was 4.09, but he struck out 171 in 141 innings, so the stuff is still electric. Like Bedard, Harden was a Type B free agent not offered arbitration by his team, so that avenue has closed. As noted, Harden is a Canadian from Victoria, so that could give the Mariners an edge. And as Fox noted, he has a 5-0, 0.86 mark at Safeco in nine career outings.

It’s a risk. Here’s a list of Harden’s stints on the disabled list:

  • 2005: Strained left oblique

  • 2006: sprained ligament in right elbow

  • 2007: strained right shoulder (two separate stints)

  • 2008: strained right shoulder.

    That’s on top of the shoulder fatigue last year. But with all that, Harden has made 51 starts over the past two years, compared to 30 for Bedard. And for all the shoulder troubles, he’s never had surgery. Bedard has had shoulder operations in each of the past two years.

    Rich Harden in a Mariner uniform has a lot of exciting possibilities.

    I’m curious to see how you folks feel about the Mariners pursuing Harden, compared to trying to bring back Bedard. Here’s a poll:

    If the Mariners could have only one of them, would you rather see them sign Rich Harden or Erik Bedard?(surveys)

    (Photo by Associated Press)

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