A quick look at losing Will Harris


The latest Astro free agent pitcher to sign elsewhere (joining Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley) was Will Harris, who signed a 3 year / $24 MM contract with the World Champion (it hurts to type this) Washington Nationals. This transaction feels so unusual because in Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, Harris gave up two-run home runs in the 7th inning of both games against these same Nats. The Game 6 homer to Anthony Rendon helped extend a tenuous 3-2 lead to a safer 5-2 margin, while the Game 7 homer flipped a 2-1 Astros lead to a 3-2 deficit a few outs short of the Astros second championship. Of course, the Nationals did get to see Harris pitch effectively in Games 1, 3 and 4 of the series.

In this latest successful rendition of the Astros, Will Harris is the second biggest bargain they picked up behind Collin McHugh. They gave up 0 assets for him as they picked him up on waivers from the Diamondbacks after the 2014 season. In 309 games and 297 innings with the Astros he had an 18-13 record with 20 saves, a 2.36 ERA and a 0.987 WHIP. He had arguably his best season in 2019 when he went 4-1 with 4 saves and a pristine 1.50 ERA and .933 WHIP.

From the rumblings after his signing with the Nats, it sounds like the Astros were not in the neighborhood of what he was looking for – likely falling short of both the years and the $/season.

We can look at this non-transaction by the Astros from two directions:

Positives – Reasons for the Astros to pass on Will Harris

  • $8 million a year is a lot for someone who is your #3 in the bullpen pecking order
  • Three years is a lot for someone of his age. Harris will turn 36 during the 2020 season and will be 38 before the contract runs out
  • Harking back to Brad Lidge, the Astros have seen what a playoff changing home run can do to some pitcher’s psyches. And that one did not cost the Astros the World Series like this one did. (Well maybe it did as it kept Roy Oswalt from pitching in the 2005 WS until Game 3).
  • The Astros have quite a few young pitchers (Josh James, Bryan Abreu, Forrest Whitley, Tyler Ivey, Cristian Javier, Brandon Bielak, Rogelio Armenteros, Cy Sneed, Francis Martes)  who may be ready to be that #3 man in the bullpen or more.
  • The chances of Harris repeating that 2019 performance are pretty low. It was the best numbers of his career and was tied to what has to be considered a “lucky” .247 BABIP (batting average on balls in play).

Negatives – Reasons for the Astros to not pass on Will Harris

  • $8 million a year is  not that much when you consider they just paid Joe Smith $7 MM and 8 MM the last two seasons for about the same amount of pitching Harris gave them last season alone.
  • The Astros (see Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke) apparently think some pitchers are worth even bigger bucks at similar ages. Verlander will be 38 for the second year of his extension and Greinke will turn 38 if the Astros make a deep playoff run into October 2021.
  • Will Harris could easily have used what happened to him in the last two games of the World Series to spur him on in 2020.
  • Young pitchers have a lot of talent, but sometimes you are better off with an older player with a calmer demeanor in the bullpen.
  • Maybe the chances of repeating 2019 are not that far fetched for Harris. A lot of us thought that Charlie Morton would not repeat what he did for the Astros when he left after 2018. He was as good or better in his terrific 2019 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Harris could do the same for the Nats, who need a boost in the bullpen department .

The bottom line is that it is always hard to see good players leave, but the Astros have had so many good players the last few seasons it is almost an impossibility to bring them all back.  No one wishes Will Harris anything but the best, unless there is an encore World Series in everyone’s future.

28 comments on “A quick look at losing Will Harris

  1. Good post Dan,

    Harris is gone. It’s business. But my thoughts at this time center around how strong our organization is at this time and place. I’m not talking about on field talent only. We had the Goldstein issue. We lost a World Series that I’m sure everyone, from the owner on down, expected to win. We went all in. And one day soon, we’ll find out to what degree our club will be impacted by the cheating scandal. We’ve already lost arguably the most valuable player in the game today. But we could lose management too. Is the ship listing? And if so, is it an easy fix?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If we could afford $7MM for Smith, but didn’t pay Harris what he’s worth ($8), then it has everything to do with the years. Which is a direct reflection of the Astros hopes for the prospects in the pipeline from mid-2020 and beyond. Harris deserves his payday (ie., comfort of multi-yr deal), and we could not foresee paying a 39 yr old, same as we couldn’t see paying Morton with health risks. We didn’t pay Morton, which allowed us flex to get Greinke, because we knew we couldn’t keep Cole. Even so, we could always re-sign McCullers which we knew TJ surgery has a very high success rate for an athlete of Lance’s caliber. After the WS, we found Urquidy can be a starter, and we saw enough elite stuff from James and Abreu to roll with those guys. Meanwhile, Armenteros is projected to capture the SP5 after having done it for 3 yrs in AAA. His true competition will come from Valdez, Martes, Javier, Emanuel, Peacock, Perez. Sneed is surplus/tradeable. Bielak, Ivey, Whitley do not have to be roster’d.. Ten guys for one spot, and that’s not counting James, and Abreu who were SP’s in MiLB.

    Can we refit at sea. Of course. Did we foresee being able to get Greinke? No, but we were in a position that the Yanks were not! Now, in order to get financial flexibilty by trade deadline in ’20, we MUST MUST MUST shed either Reddick or Brantley’s salary, because as projected, common sense has us over the $228M cap, which will cost 1st draft pick, $4M taxes and $500K international pool. Aside from scandal punishment, that has the makings of ruining the 3-year window in Altuve’s reign.

    Why haven’t we done that? Probably because it will cost Reddick Armenteros and Perez for a bag of balls, and that’s a bad idea, since Reddick will be productive. Instead, I like Op’s idea to find a suitor for Brantley. He has some value ($16MM is not cheap), but he will probably only get us a solid team-need CF prospect. The last thing we should be worried about is adding a player right now, even Harris.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Astros could not afford Will Harris.
    For years we heard Astros fans talk about tying up the core players and going out and getting great players at the deadline to add to the team for the playoffs. The Astros tied up Altuve and Bregman. They went out and got Verlander and Greinke.
    Now that we’ve done that, we can’t turn around and sign a 36 year old relief pitcher to a 3/24 deal, because the high payroll is the result of doing the other two things. Harris was gone the day he cleaned out his locker and declared free agency. We didn’t lose him. He played out his contract and went looking for a better deal. He walked.
    It seems like every free agent who signs a contract with a team is somehow lost by his former team. That’s BS! the moment that guy declares for free agency, he’s gone. And he is the reason he is gone. It’s not his former team’s fault.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I watched a show on MLB Network yesterday and they had four respected baseball writers in a panel talking about the business of baseball and the business of writing about baseball.
    One of the things that struck me about the program is that these four writers hate the way baseball is being reported on today. They hate the leaks. They hate twitter. They hate the links between agents and reporters and the links between organizations and reporters that allow business to be conducted in public, rather than privately.
    The second thing that I learned from them is that they believe that more emphasis is going to be placed on projections than past performance. Don’t look at Harris’s contract in comparison to what Smith got the last two years. They think that teams will more and more base future contracts on future projections, not what he did yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw that, too, Op.

      Couldn’t help but see these “journalists” in a new light after; JV scorning from the locker room a reporter he had a run-in with in Detroit, the Taubman handling by the press, and of course being able to run roughshod with speculation re cheating.

      Having studied the subject thoroughly in college, I could see the way history is often written as one-sided. They taught us, start with a premise, then gather info that supports it. Instead of letting the fcts dictate; facts were someone’s “interpretation.”

      What that panel seemed to me to be saying was that their liveliehood was threatened by others beating them to the scoop. I heard more sour grapes about how they couldn’t get an exclusive, where Brian Kenney said, “GM’s used to lie to other reporters, except the guy who was going to break the news.

      Armed with these precepts, I’m just as ready to replace them with my own research and findings. That is why I follow all number of guys from coaches, indy instructors, scouts and players. I’d rather hear their perspnal perspective, than to see how it is “spun” in the press. I’ve lost respect for the scoop, because of the agenda of these conglomerates. When every headline reads the exact same wording, you know the lawyers have approved it, and there is very little independent, deductive reasoning applied.

      Because of many other factors, the Astros must remain secretive, and especially since they employ and implement newer ideas (Artificial Intelligence, Centralized programs Florida/Dominican), which give them tactical advantages. If the media doesn’t EARN the trust by squashing things they see in the team’s own locker room, they are OUT. I wouldn’t give them any info moving forward!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been putting together my 2020 Astros Top 40 list. Baseball America released their new findings, and glad to say I agree with some of the bold selections. One being, inserting Jeremy Pena ahead of Freudis Nova. That really gives me confidence to push forward with my own findings. Another that should really raise an eyebrow is RHP Hunter Brown! I have to say, some of these players are still a few years away, but if Brown moved up from MLB#22-BA#9 in just 23 innings of work, what do the real stars in Tri-Cities deserve? Namely, Peyton Battenfield, Jairo Lopez and Valente Bellozo? This system has some incredible pitching depth. I do like SS/2B Grae Kessinger a whole lot, but I’d have the Killer B’s ahead of him; Brewer, Bielak and Barber … (cont).

    1. Forrest Whitley
    2. Jose Urquidy
    3. Jeremy Pena
    4. Freudis Nova
    5. Bryan Abreu
    6. Abraham Toro
    7. Korey Lee
    8. Cristian Javier
    9. Hunter Brown
    10. Grae Kessinger

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  6. This proves no point, but is just a historical reminder. The Astros won the 2017 World Series. JV came in and started 5 games late in the year that were very important. But here were the starters, Fiers, Morton, Keuchel, Peacock, LMJ and McHugh. The Pen: Closer Giles, Devenski, Gregerson, Feliz and Harris.

    Pitchers have come and gone and the Astros could/should have won the WS in 2019. They have a good, yet expensive, team. And this year, Maldonado replaces McCann from 2017 and Brantley replaces Aoki. And the DH is YA and not Beltran. And the bettors have the Astros as one of the favorites for 2020.

    Liked by 3 people

      • 1OP, I’m glad you’ve still got Lorenzo’s back! He could be our second backstop before long! And now I know a bit more than nothing about Blake Taylor. Maybe he’ll find a home in the pen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Unless Garneau (sneaky good), or Stubbs is injured, I don’t see an opening in HOU for Quintana. And if he doesn’t capture the spot in ’20, since Maldonado is signed through 2022, by that time Korey Lee, CJ Stubbs and brother, and Nathan Perry should be on the cusp.

        What the Astros might do is try to showcase Lorenzo for trade, but his age, and the preponderance of the jackrabbit ball in AAA last season, he has some proving to do in ’20. Credit for a Bold prediction, going back a year or more!

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    • Taylor is projected by mid-season, Quintana would be a pleasant surprise.

      If we use “surprise” as someone who isn’t on the 40-man roster, the logical choices have to be Bielak, Ivey, Whitley.

      The real longshot surprises (but possible) are Enoli Paredes, Luis H Garcia, Shawn Dubin and off the Top 30 radar, Brett Conine.

      Hitters who I think are slightly better than Quintana; Matijevic, Shaver, Adams, McCormick.

      Shaver is a terrible fielder, but got catching experience in CC, and in the AZFL. If you ever doubt the scouting under Jeff Luhnow; Josh James as the #1006 pick, but also Colton Shaver, BYU #1171 pick 39th round is truly amazing.

      Last year’s draft, after spending most of our pool in the first 6 rounds, we somehow were able to land; CJ Stubbs, Blair Henley, Ryan Gusto, Alex Palmer, Peyton Battenfield, and as one of our last picks, we selected the best JUCO hitter in the draft, James Nix. He’s a few years away..

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s why I post here, Dan. Since most don’t get to see MiLB games, some of the really encouraging signs for me are for example, how well Corpus Christi played against the eventual Texas League champs, Amarillo (San Diego Padres), or Tulsa (LAD), who have a top 5 farm. It’s really awesome to see guys we signed for $10,000, best their guys who cost millions of dollars. And it tells me our system is underrated.

      The reason I fight so hard to reverse that perception is the trades we lost because of our undervalued guys; Laureano for Bailey, JD Davis, Villar for Sneed. Sure, these players were blocked in HOU, but we should have gotten better returns if the trading team had more respect for our prospect rankings.

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  7. I feel like I have jumped to a parallel universe where you interview people for the head coaching job of an NFL team, while you still have a head coach.
    What the heck!
    And then I read that they might be doing this so that the head coach doesn’t feel so bad.
    Considering the ridiculous stuff that has happened in this country for the last 11 years, the Dallas Cowboys may truly be America’s Team. That title has a completely different meaning than when it was coined.
    Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Let the record show, I haven’t wavered from this position since Day 1, except to imagine how dumb it would be to rely on a flawed relay system.

    To try and negate what this team did last season is a travesty! It goes against everything I know about Hinch and Luhnow to cheat. I still won’t believe it, til it’s proven, and the sound of a trash can proves nothing.

    Carlos Correa not concerned Mike Fiers allegations damage what the Astros did in 2017 or beyond: “Not at all. This year it was obvious in the investigation we found out we just played baseball..There was nothing going on, just straight up good players playing good baseball.” pic.twitter.com/MseCZ6f7WZ

    — Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 4, 2020

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      • Then, explain how, with a league official at every game insuring the “live feed” has an 8-second delay, the Astros or any other team were able to do what Fiers claimed. JV and others commented while the season went on that he was glad they were tightening this up (any pitcher would want that). Hinch was answering questions about it all the time.

        I would ask you on the stats provided, how many of the away games happened when he was freshly recovering from back ails? I mean, he hit the longest homer in Camden Yard history. Backs are really tricky. We know this about him, it’s baked-in, and that’s why Luhnow traded for Diaz, converted Straw, and pushing Pena.

        I’m not going to stand still until something is proven. Our players and coaches, former players (Dierker, Garner, Biggio, Blum), former Astros (Musgrove, Cole, Davis) and others have already said they didn’t do it.

        Going onto Fangraphs boards, the amount of vitriol in these people’s lives? I won’t allow their puny opinions and name calling to affect me. And even if we are found guilty, I will see it as a witch hunt for not investigating and going thru every other team’s emails, etc. All of our cutting edge ways exposed to “investigators” in NY, the most corrupt city in the US. The media is their muscle, such that our own players and coaches are stifled under their terms.

        Our guys are going to have all the fuel and motivation to dismantle the league on the field. After losing Cole, we are still favored to win it all. And they will do EVERYTHING to prevent that.

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      • Musgrove.
        Ya know, Pirates have waved his name around in trade talks.. always liked that guy — straight shooter, hard worker, great character, good in the community.

        With all the comments and reluctancy from players to not say, “There. was. no. cheating.,” I can’t help but think they are all covering for Beltran and Cora which for a short time, they tried to use cameras. They don’t want to admit a small experiment, because it makes the public think it was a chronic habit. “Taints the trophy”.

        Instead, Musgrove talks about all the hard work. That was the overriding and common denominator of success. They all talk about how this is a small part of the game, mainly because it’s not trust worthy method to hitting. The only thing you can really trust is fundamentals in baseball. To accuse us of cheating really cheats the public of finding out what REALLY makes us ahead of the curve.

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      • GA1, I was not accusing, just chatting. I have no inside knowledge either way. One note, the 8 second delay applies to TV feeds. It is obvious of the delay if you watch a game and have Game Day on line and open. You can see a hit or strikeout before it occurs. But if the Astros had their own feed from centerfield, that probably would have no delay. However to “transmit” that to a batter would have to be less than a second as most pitchers nod and start their windup. So I doubt the stories as much as anyone.

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      • I don’t doubt you grasp and have read what’s available, AC. Your humor helps keep things afloat oftentimes!

        Astros already covered the extra camera accusation though, too. The way I’ve understood it, there was close scrutiny on this every game.

        I’ve even read wiring guys explain certain band widths are needed, and only home teams can get “close to simultaneous.”

        Instead of levying the harshest penalties ever to scare to teams off (BOS was fined $10,000 by contrast for using an apple watch), the league should be exploring a candid discussion. Teams do everything to protect signs inherently, same as every batter takes issue with bad umpiring. The league is taking steps for electronic umps — why are they headed the other direction with sign stealing, which has been a part of the game forever?

        It’s a witch hunt to taint and take down a great team that the darlings cannot beat.

        I think it would be funny for the Astros catcher to stand up for the 1st week and openly show signs. Then, when we still win the games, it will prove to be less of a factor than the Commishioner has stirred up.

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  9. Congratulations on the Texans’ victory yesterday. Both games were very entertaining and it felt like revenge for the the Buffalo defeat in ’93 even though it was the Oilers. Oh, and kudos to the Titans for beating the (spit) Patriots.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Concerning the Patriots. The Astros front office might need to take note. Once you are found cheating, your life can get a lot rougher. The NFL is investigating the Patriots again for filming the sidelines of a game with the Bengals. It may be nothing, but the league will “investigate” every chance they get.

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  11. Several guys who played for the Astros during the years in question have stated that they have not been contacted by MLB to be questioned about the allegations nor did they see any evidence of cheating at any point. How exhaustive can the investigation be if not even a phone call has been made to Musgrove, J.D Davis and others? This concerns me more than it does not.

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    • When the jury has reached its verdict (whatever it is), there is no need to produce evidence. Sort of a Perry Mason or Matlock where there show the final scene first, and then explain the trial later.

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  12. I do hate being left hanging here on the cheating situation. It makes it hard to move on with looking at other aspects of the team (though I do have to force myself to do this every few days). I hope that their findings are fair and the punishments reasonable. If the Astros are guilty they deserve some punishment, but if this is something that was happening every where that needs to be taken into account.
    I am just afraid that perceived arrogance of the Astros (the new “smartest guys in the room”) may work against them. I hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If they have determined not to be thorough in their investigation, ignoring actual dugout witnesses, then at this point they are likely pondering how much they want to bleep the Astros around. I sure hope there are other dugout witnesses than Mike Fiers. And I sure hope they come up with a response prior to the start of Spring Training. But why am I thinking they’ll wait until the NLF season is over when more people will be prepared to focus on baseball?

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