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.”