The Chicago Cubs announced that they will pick up Rich Harden’s contract option, worth $7 million, for the 2009 season.
While the Cubs are thrilled about keeping one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, they are undoubtedly concerned that Harden might become the next Mark Prior.
The 26 year-old righty will be back with the Cubs after posting a 10-2 record with a 2.07 ERA in 148 innings with the A’s and Cubs in 2008.
Harden was acquired along with reliever Chad Gaudin in a six player trade on July 8, and went unbeaten in his last ten starts of the season, including a 5-1 record and a 1.77 ERA with the Cubs.
Harden set a career high with 181 strikeouts and led all pitchers in batting average against, as hitters batted only .183 against him in ‘08. Harden’s 25 starts in 2008 were second best to his career high of 31 starts in 2004 with the A’s.
Now, the Cubs hope that the injury-prone Harden can stay healthy, something he has struggled with throughout his career. In 2008, despite any serious setbacks, Harden was scratched from starts mysteriously several times and was often taken out of games prematurely due to injury concerns.
Chicago hopes that it can get its money’s worth by improving the pitcher’s durability and consistency during winter and spring workouts, and is optimistic that Harden can continue his success from last year during the 2009 season.