By Jason Shetler
Josh Harrison was one of the top breakout players in all of baseball during the 2014 season. His ability to play multiple positions, as well as being a five-win player, made him such a valuable asset to the Pirates that year.
Prior to last season, the Pirates and Harrison agreed to terms on a four-year extension worth $27 million. Whether or not living up to the new contract played a role, Harrison significantly regressed, as he went from having a 5.0 WAR in 2014 to a 1.3 WAR in 2015.
Last offseason, one of the Pirates main things to address was the starting rotation. During the Winter Meetings, the Pirates made the very unpopular decision to trade Neil Walker to the New York Mets in exchange for Jon Niese. The trade allowed Harrison to become the everyday second baseman.
The offensive numbers for Harrison were subpar again this season, as he posted a .699 OPS. His defensive play at second base however prevented him from being a replacement level player, putting up a 2.4 UZR/150 along with eight Defensive Runs Saved. He was shutdown the final three weeks of the season due to a groin injury.
The Pirates find themselves in an interesting situation as it involves Harrison. For the past two seasons now, he’s been below league average offensively, and it’s unlikely that he’ll play near the level of his 2014 campaign again. Just recently, I did a post about why the Pirates should trade for Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher Shelby Miller. It’s no secret that the Bucs will be addressing the rotation again this offseason, so perhaps they can acquire a starter who is only a year removed from pitching at an All-Star level. With Harrison and Miller coming off down years, as well as club control being the same (both free agents after 2018), it would appear to be a good match. Two other factors would be Adam Frazier, who the Pirates could plug in at second base for only the league minimum, and not having to trade any prospects. The Pirates decision to trade Harrison this offseason is ultimately going to hinge on whether or not they think Frazier, who is coming off a good rookie season, would be able to play second base on a regular basis next year.