Meet Rich Harden, Newest Red Sox Following Trade With A's

The Rich Harden trade between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics is, for all intents and purposes, official. There's no word yet on the identity of the player to be named later, but the Red Sox will be losing prospect Lars Anderson and gaining righty Rich Harden.

So who is Rich Harden? Harden's a guy who has injured everything there is to injure. He's started 106 Major League games since the beginning of the 2005 season. He's been on the disabled list with oblique problems, elbow problems, shoulder problems, back problems and hip problems, and he started this very season on the DL with a shoulder injury. He didn't actually show up in the bigs until the first of July.

But since then, he's started five games, and done this:

Rk Date Opp IP H R BB SO HR
1 Jul 1 ARI 6.0 4 2 0 6 1
2 Jul 7 @ TEX 5.0 8 5 2 2 1
3 Jul 16(2) LAA 7.0 4 3 2 9 2
4 Jul 23 @ NYY 5.1 5 2 4 6 1
5 Jul 28 TBR 6.0 3 2 2 7 1
29.1 24 14 10 30 6
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/30/2011.

Five starts, 29-1/3 innings, 30 strikeouts. And just as importantly - or more importantly? - he's kept his fastball in the low- to mid-90s, while keeping his change in the mid-80s. Harden's basically a two-pitch pitcher, but they're two really good pitches when they're working.

For the time being, at least, it looks like they're working. Harden's always been effective when healthy, and even though he seldom works deep, that makes him valuable. Harden has tremendous value when he's healthy. The problem's just always keeping him healthy, and the Red Sox are taking a risk.

They did it because it's a risk with big upside. As with Erik Bedard, Harden could pitch like a front-of-the-rotation starter, or he could get hurt and do nothing. Just imagine if he's healthy by the playoffs. He would be an incredible weapon, and a weapon the Red Sox got on the cheap because of all the questions.

One figures Harden will immediately slot into the Red Sox's rotation. But the issue isn't so much how Harden does now as it is how Harden does in two months. The Red Sox are going to the playoffs. If Harden's pitching in October, the organization could look back on this move as being absolutely huge.

As for Lars Anderson - Anderson was a moderately hot prospect a few years ago, but his stock has dropped sharply after unimpressive stints, both last season and this, with triple-A Pawtucket. He'll be added to the list of young power-hitting prospects the Athletics hope can actually hit for power.

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