Matt Harrison, Rangers finalize $55M, 5-year deal

Matt Harrison has gone from a pitcher the Texas Rangers left off
their postseason roster to one they believe can become one of the
league’s best left-handers.

The Rangers finalized a $55 million, five-year contract with the
All-Star lefty Thursday. The deal includes a 2018 club option that
could become guaranteed depending on the number of innings Harrison
pitches.

”This is a testament to all the hard work he puts in,” said
Thad Levine, the team’s assistant general manager. ”The talent
shows up every time he pitches. … The more we’ve gotten to know
Matt Harrison, the more we believe in Matt Harrison. And we believe
the best is yet to come.”

Hours later, the Rangers agreed with right-hander Neftali Feliz
on a $2.9 million, one-year contract to avoid salary
arbitration.

Harrison was 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA and four complete games in 32
starts last year, and his 3.10 ERA in 18 road starts was the lowest
in the American League. Over the past two seasons, since being left
off the Rangers’ postseason roster in 2010, he is 32-20 while
throwing 399 innings.

Texas acquired Harrison, Feliz and shortstop Elvis Andrus from
Atlanta in July 2007 in a seven-player deal that sent Mark Teixeira
to the Braves.

The 27-year-old Harrison made his major league debut in July
2008, going 9-3 in 15 starts after being called up. After starting
the 2009 season in the rotation, he started having issues with his
left shoulder that eventually required season-ending surgery for
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome to remove a rib to alleviate the
situation.

”I was definitely on the other end of the spectrum than I am
now. Things weren’t really going my way and I had a lot of
hit-and-miss starts,” Harrison said. ”The biggest thing that led
up to where I am today is just figuring out that mental toughness
and the mental part of the game. The talent was there, it was just
figuring out how to use it and use it the right way.”

The real turning point for Harrison was the 2010 postseason.
After being used primarily as a reliever throughout the regular
season while coming back from surgery, he was left off the roster
in the playoffs. He traveled with the team throughout the
postseason, but was never active while the Rangers went to their
first World Series.

”That moment of being left off the roster was a tough, tough
month for me, a tough offseason,” he said. ”I finally grew up as
a person and a man. Mentally things started turning around for me,
I started having more confidence in myself, success coming around.
I started seeing another level come out of me. Hopefully, I can
continue to go from that and get better.”

Harrison has a career record of 48-30 with a 4.08 ERA in 126
games over the past five years, all with Texas.

His deal calls for a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $5
million this year, $8 million in 2014 and $13 million in each of
the following three seasons. The agreement includes a $13.25
million team option for 2018 with a $2 million buyout, and the
option would become guaranteed if Harrison has 600 innings pitched
or more from 2015-17, including at least 200 in 2017. The option
price would increase by $250,000 each time he reaches 200 innings
in the first five years, up to $15.75 million. That would increase
the value of the deal to $68.75 million over six seasons.

Harrison’s agreement, negotiated by agents Sam and Seth
Levinson, got finalized two days after he had filed for salary
arbitration, and also after he turned down an opportunity to pitch
for the United States in the World Baseball Classic.

Feliz, the 24-year-old former closer who was moved to the
rotation last spring, is recovering from Tommy John surgery to
repair a tear in his right elbow and likely will be sidelined until
at least this summer. He was 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in eight games
last season, including seven starts, before going on the disabled
list in May.

David Murphy, expected to be the everyday left fielder, also
filed for salary arbitration this week. General manager Jon Daniels
said the Rangers felt they were close enough to think a deal would
be reached, even if not completed, before they are required to
exchange proposed salaries Friday.

With Harrison under contract, the Rangers have three of their
starting pitchers signed for at least four more seasons with
another under control for at least that long.

Japanese ace Yu Darvish last year signed a $56 million, six-year
deal with the Rangers and then won 16 games as a major league
rookie. There are provisions in his contract that could allow the
26-year-old righty to become a free agent after the 2016
season.

Texas has 26-year-old left-hander Derek Holland under contract
through at least 2016, with club options for two more years after
that. Holland is planning to pitch in the WBC this spring.

Alexi Ogando, who won 13 games as a starter and was an All-Star
in 2011, is returning to the rotation this spring. The 29-year-old
is under Rangers control for at least four more seasons, including
his arbitration-eligible years.

”Those are four solid pitchers who are in their prime who will
be part of the Texas Rangers family for the foreseeable future,”
Levine said. ”We’ll take our chances if we’re going to build
around that core of men that we’ll be able to compete for
championships in the American League for this time and in the
future.”