The Pittsburgh Pirates will undoubtedly make multiple trades this offseason. And one player they should be actively shopping is Josh Harrison.
This offseason Neal Huntington will be presented with the task of turning the Pittsburgh Pirates back into a postseason team. This is due to the Pirates missing the postseason in 2016 for the first time since 2012. One way to do this is through the trade market.
For a variety of reasons, one player Neal Huntington should actively shop this offseason is Josh Harrison. While, yes, Josh Harrison is a favorite of many Pirate fans it would behoove the Pirates to try and trade him this offseason.
The first reason the Pirates should look to trade Harrison is his contract. I am a huge Neal Huntington fan. However, giving Josh Harrison a contract extension is one of the biggest mistakes he has made as Pirates’ general manager.
In 2014 Harrison had a career year. He posted a .365 wOBA, 137 wRC+, and a 5.0 WAR in a career high 143 games. This led to him being rewarded with a four-year contract extension in April of 2015. This extension includes club options for 2019 and 2020. However, Harrison had not earned this contract. Despite his great 2014, the Pirates should have waited for him to show more.
I did not like the extension when it happened and now I dislike it even more. Since Harrison signed his extension, he has been a very below league average hitter since signing his extension.
In 2017 Harrison is owed 7.5 million dollars. This is more than the 1.3 WAR he posted in 2014 and 1.5 WAR he posted in 2015 are worth. If the Pirates were to trade Harrison they would almost assuredly have to pay some of his salary, but it would still be worthwhile. The money they save can then be reallocated elsewhere.
A second reason to trade Harrison are his offensive struggles. Yes, Josh Harrison is an above average defensive second baseman. However, his offense is that of a below average Major League hitter.
Since the start of the 2015 season Harrison has 971 plate appearances. In these 971 plate appearances his .318 on-base percentage, .389 slugging percentage, .307 wOBA, and 93 wRC+ are all below league average. Additionally, his .104 ISO and 3.8 percent walk rate are both, to put it lightly, bad.
Josh Harrison is also far too much of a free swinger at the plate. In his career he has swung at 37.7 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. This is a big reason why his career walk rate is just 3.5 percent while his strikeout rate is 14.3 percent.
Finally, there is one more reason the Pittsburgh Pirates should shop Josh Harrison this offseason. That reason is that they have alternative options at second base. These two alternative options are Adam Frazier and Alen Hanson.
Adam Frazier’s defense at second base is nowhere near Harrison’s (.938 fielding percentage, 0 DRS, -30.3 UZR/150 vs .989 fielding percentage, 8 DRS, 2.4 UZR/150), his offense is far superior. As a rookie in 2016 Frazier posted a .356 on-base percentage, .411 slugging percentage, .335 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 110. Furthermore, unlike Harrison, Frazier is a patient and selective hitter at the plate that always gives a quality at bat.
Due to Frazier’s defensive woes, I would not be comfortable with him being an everyday second baseman. However, it is a different story with Alen Hanson. Hanson is known as a strong defender at second base and he has a lot of potential in his bat. In my opinion, a combination of Adam Frazier and Alen Hanson at second base in 2017 would bring the Pirates more value than Josh Harrison.
This offseason the Pirates need to try and trade Josh Harrison. Getting some salary relief, especially from a bad contract, would be splendid. And they have better second base options in house already.