The Minnesota Twins continue to leave no stone unturned in their effort to add pitching, as they have signed Rich Harden to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The Twins had reportedly contacted his agent on Thursday, so a deal came together fairly quickly.
Harden, who missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in February, last pitched for the Oakland Athletics in 2011, going 4-4 with a 5.12 ERA on 15 starts (82.2 innings). Seemingly annual shoulder problems have derailed his once very promising career, as he has not pitched more than 148 innings in a season since 2004.
Harden has a 59-38 career record with a 3.76 ERA and career K/9 rate of 9.2 over nine major league seasons spent mostly in Oakland, but he has also pitched for the Chicago Cubs (2008-2009) and Texas Rangers (2010). He has pitched predominantly as a starter during his career (160 starts in 170 appearances), and though it’s unclear whether he would like to come back as a starter or reliever the Twins can offer him an opportunity to earn a spot in the starting rotation for next season.
Adding Harden on a minor league deal is obviously a very low-risk move for Minnesota. If he is not able to win a spot in the starting rotation right out of the gate, he could theoretically earn a spot in the Twins’ bullpen with an otherwise strong and healthy showing in the spring. Pitching out of the bullpen may help him remain healthy for a full season, a feat that has clearly eluded him through his career, while also allowing the Twins to get something from him.
All things considered I like the move to add Harden, if only to see what he might have left at still only 31 years old. With virtually no downside involved, any significant contribution the Twins get from him next season should be considered a bonus.