In December of 2011, Aaron Harang signed a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $12 million to be a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
How quickly the game of baseball can change within just one year.
Headed into 2013, the 34-year old is finding himself in a difficult spot to honor the second year of that contract. The 3.64 ERA in 2011 and the $7 million dollar attached to his name likely means that he still has a chance to do so – but it probably won’t be with the Dodgers.
That’s if you want to read between the lines of what Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly has to say, anyway. Speaking to reporters, the Dodgers skipper was relatively clear on how he saw Harang being able to contribute to the club, saying “Aaron Harang doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that pitches out of the pen.”
Mattingly said that, of course, knowing that Harang is competing with the likes of Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and inside-track holder Josh Beckett for the job of being the Dodgers’ No. 5 pitcher.
That quote also came before Harang’s first spring outing with the team, where he give up four runs on five hits against the Chicago Cubs, who sent all nine batters in their lineup to the plate in the first inning.
Whether he’s the type of guy that pitches out of the pen or not, Harang certain didn’t look like a guy who pitches in the rotation, even if the veteran only needed nine pitches to get the next three outs to complete his two innings of work.
The fact is that Harang was already an odd man out in the starting rotation mix, even before the start, unless the Dodgers run into several injuries in that department over the next month. And with Mattingly saying that he wouldn’t be good for the bullpen…well, that doesn’t leave him with room to pitch for Los Angeles at all, does it?
Luckily for the Dodgers and Harang, there are teams that do have room for what the manager called “more of a guy that paints.”
The New York Yankees could use some pitching, but they need not apply here – Harang is exactly the type of pitcher that would get hammered in the American League, let alone Yankee Stadium. Of course, you can’t talk about pitching without the Colorado Rockies, so you can probably put their name in the hat – though it’s tough to imagine the fit at Coors.
One interesting fit might be the Milwaukee Brewers, who badly need some stability in their rotation, and are hoping to add a back-end arm that will help them compete in the upcoming season. If the Dodgers eat a part of the salary, the relative lack of commitment to Harang in terms of years might be enticing enough for the Brew Crew as someone who can hold their group of young, inexperienced starter together.
They’d probably rather have the more affordable Capuano, of course, but he’s the better pitcher, and the Dodgers are better off keeping him. Plus, Mattingly has already said that he does see Capuano potentially pitching out of the bullpen, and the righty never suggested that he’d have a problem with it.
Harang does, though. He wants to be a starter, and he’s preparing like it, whether he’ll get the job with the Dodgers or not.
That might just mean that he’ll find his way out of Los Angeles soon enough.