Aaron Harang probably – hopefully – pitched his last game as a Cincinnati Red yesterday. He was ineffective, as he was in his first start back from the DL, and frankly, as he’s been for large parts of the last three seasons. Harang’s contract is up at the end of this season (the Reds get to choose between a $2M buyout payment or a $12.75M option for next year, which is an easy choice).
Harang came to the Reds in a then-forgettable trade for Jose Guillen, engineered by co-acting-GM Brad Kullman. In his prime (2005-07), Harang joined Adam Dunn as just about the only guys worth watching on some lousy Reds teams.
In that three season stretch, Harang was an elite pitcher. He went 43-30 (.589) for Reds teams that were 225-261 (.463). He had a 3.77 ERA (120 ERA+), and averaged 200 K per season. He averaged nearly 5 WAR those years. Playing for an 80-82 club, Harang led the 2006 NL in Wins (16) and strikeouts (216).
In February 2007, Harang signed a 4-year/$36.5M contract extension, which was really below-market for his then-current performance. We were happy. Justin loved it. Even Prospectus was impressed. Harang, a San Diego native, flew his wife to Cincinnati in a blizzard to sign the papers. Then he went on to finish fourth in the 2007 Cy Young Award voting.
Now, after all those years of futility, the Reds are odds-on favorites to make the playoffs — and frankly, Harang has no business being involved. Worse for him, probably, he really can’t feel like he contributed to the Reds getting there. That sucks.
But rather than dwell on the frustration that Harang, and we, feel about his 2010 performance, I’d just like to thank the big guy for all the years of rock-solid pitching. Harang is from San Diego, where I used to live. He and I knew several of the same people, and from what I know, Reds fans saw the real guy – the Reds 2008 Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award winner and 2007 and 2009 Roberto Clemente Award nominee.
He took the ball every time it was his turn (and even one time when it wasn’t – and who knows what that did to him). He was a good teammate, a great community guy in town that wasn’t really his, and was a real pleasure to watch. I’m really going to miss him. Hopefully he can turn it around next season, and I’d love to see him collect a World Series ring next spring, no matter what uniform he’s wearing.