If you go by the numbers, the Texas Rangers made a steal of a signing last month when they locked up pitcher Matt Harrison for the next five years. Harrison and the Rangers agreed on a five-year, $55 million contract extension on January 17th that will keep one of the top left-handers in the game in Texas for years to come.
Harrison, just 27 years old, was third in the AL in wins last season, and his 3.29 ERA ranked seventh in the league. Among left-handed pitchers, that ERA trailed only David Price and Chris Sale. Over the past two seasons, Harrison is one of only three lefties to win at least 30 games (32-20), joining Price and New York Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia. This is especially important to the Rangers considering the division that they play in.
Each of the other four teams in the NL West will rely heavily on their top sluggers—all of which happen to be left-handed. The Los Angeles Angels have Josh Hamilton, who the Rangers obviously know very well. The Oakland Athletics have Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss. The Seattle Mariners will lean on the bat of Kendrys Morales—a switch hitter that has far more power from the left side. And even the lowly Houston Astros’ top power hitter is a lefty, Carlos Pena.
While lefty versus lefty match-ups don’t necessarily mean outs, baseball history has shown that the pitcher, more often than not, wins these battles. Those odds go against the batter even more so when the pitcher in question is one of the best in the league.
The Rangers made a great move with this signing, and the seemingly discounted price tag makes it even better. Expect Harrison to once again approach 20 wins in 2013, provided that the depleted Texas offense can offer at least a little bit of help.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)