Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo Pass Through Waivers: Should Yankees Bite?

Thomas HillContributor IAugust 12, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 9: Aaron Harang #39 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 9, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With Cincinnati Reds starters Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo both passing through waivers, it would be prudent for the Yankees to at least look into acquiring one of these pitchers to fill the No. 5 spot in their rotation.

Both are pricey, with Harang costing $18.5 million through 2010 and Arroyo $16.5 million through next season as well.

Harang, in the third year of a four year, $36.5 million contract he signed with Cincinnati in the winter of 2007, would be the more preferable of the two. He also has a $12.75 million club option for 2011 that becomes a $14.5 million mutual option if traded. A $2 million buyout exists under both scenarios.

Arroyo, in the first year of a two year, $25 million extension, also signed in the winter of 2007, and has a club option for the 2011 season at $11 million with a $2 million buyout.

The Yankees apparently checked in with the Reds regarding both Harang and Arroyo prior to the July 31st trading deadline, and presumably wanted Cincinnati to pick up a large portion of the salary cost for any deal to be consummated.

With both having passed waivers unclaimed, those talks can now resume.

With the 2009 version of the “Joba Rules” starting to take effect, as evidenced by the current plan to rest starter Joba Chamberlain for seven days before his next scheduled start, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it would behoove New York to acquire another option for the rotation.

While the Yankees recent sweep over the rival Red Sox put some distance between the two AL East powers for the divisional lead, New York cannot and should not be comfortable sending out Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin as two-fifths of the rotation for baseball’s best team.

Having one of those two as the No. 5 starter is acceptable, but having both consistently take a starting turn is a cause for concern as the August-September playoff stretch run begins.

Both Arroyo and Harang have struggled mightily this year in Cincinnati, with Arroyo going 10-11 with a 5.04 ERA and Harang going 6-13 with a more respectable 4.43 ERA.

Harang’s walk and strikeout numbers are in line with his career averages and his ERA stands only .16 over his career number of 4.27. One worrisome statistic is his opponents' batting average.

Batters this year are hitting .292 against the former top-tier pitcher, over 20 points higher than his career OBA of .271. However, if a change of scenery can enable Harang to rediscover some of the ability that made him one of the game’s best pitchers from 2005-2007, he could be a steal.

Arroyo, contrastingly, has some alarming statistical trends. For four consecutive seasons, he has seen both his OBA and ERA rise. This year, his strikeout to walk ratio has also sharply declined to less than 2:1. It’s clear that Harang is the better choice.

While acquiring either pitcher would most likely only take a mid-level prospect (a la Chase Weems in the Jerry Hairston trade), the dollar amount would be the primarily cost factor here.

It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will pursue Harang and/or Arroyo, but they are certainly back-end rotation options that are readily available at a reasonable trading price. Harang in particular would be a potential high reward acquisition if he can regain any or all of his former all-star form.