Last night, James Harden made his 26th start of 2009 for the Chicago Cubs.
Say what? James Harden is playing baseball now? That's a quick transition!
Of course it's not this James Harden, it's James Richard Harden, aka Rich Harden.
Harden went just 3 innings last night and threw 71 pitches. He gave up 5 runs (though only two were earned) on 5 hits, and also walked three.
It's the fourth start in a row that he hasn't made it more than 5 innings. Those kinds of outings really put a strain on your bullpen. Harden hasn't gone longer than 7 innings all year, either. It's one thing if you're going 7 innings each and every start, but Harden clearly isn't. He's gone 7 just five times in 2009, in less than 20% of his starts.
That's just not good enough for as much money as he commands.
You can make the argument that the reason he throws so many pitches is because he's a strikeout pitcher. True, however he's had his control problems this year as well. He's walked 4 or more 7 times in 2009, and as we all know, it takes 4 balls to walk, versus three strikes for a K.
After last night's game, Lou Piniella said that Harden would be replaced in the rotation, for at least one turn, maybe more. According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Harden could miss the rest of the year.
I would be fine with him missing the rest of the year. What's the point of him pitching anymore? Sure, Harden is usually brilliant after getting some extra rest, but the Cubs aren't in it anymore.
Harden will be a free agent at the end of the year, and potentially a Type A free agent. This means that the Cubs would receive two compensatory draft picks in between the first and second rounds IF and only IF they offer Harden salary arbitration and he declines. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald thinks that the Cubs just don't want to risk Harden accepting arbitration because he would probably get around $10 million.
Like I said earlier, that's way too much to pay for a guy who rarely gives you a long outing.
David Kaplan makes Miles' case even stronger when he lays out a partial list of the Cubs' salary commitments for 2010.
It's too bad it has to end this way for the Cubs and Harden. Cubs fans were so ecstatic when he came here last July, but his stay was less than stellar. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the Cubs had a chance to get something for Harden, but they couldn't complete a deal.
It's a shame that they're going to get nothing for him. Looks like Randy Wells will definitely have a spot in the rotation in 2010.