Should Padres Sign Josh Harrison to Fill Void?

Credit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With the Pittsburgh Pirates somewhat-surprisingly choosing not to exercise Josh Harrison’s 10.5-million-dollar option Wednesday, the versatile super-utility man is likely to draw interest from across the league. With the Padres envisioning success within the next couple of seasons, the time is now to sign Josh Harrison.

Every World Series-winning team has a guy like Josh Harrison. The scrappy, hard-nosed, dirtbag kind-of-player who may be a few inches under six feet tall and have a knack for hustling his way into the lineup each day.

These traits may make one think of players such as Brock Holt, Ben Zobrist, or Marwin Gonzalez— each of which played significant roles in their team’s path to postseason glory.

The World Series has been a clear role of owner Ron Fowler since he bought the team in 2012, and the long-term investment in players like Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer has shown that he is willing to spend the dough necessary to get there. However, if the Padres truly do envision themselves being that kind of team– the kind that erases decades of complacency with losing– they need to add a player like Josh Harrison.

For the Padres, the availability of a player such as Harrison is, in a lot of ways, perfect timing. Possibly the Padres biggest need outside of starting pitching this offseason is a third baseman. After a red-hot April, Padres primary third baseman Christian Villanueva consistently hovered around the Mendoza Line for the remainder of the season. And with Villa’s eventual injury, the Padres were forced to move Wil Myers to third base for the first time in his career– a solution that would ideally not represent the team’s long-term outlook.

Thus, if the Padres front office chooses to evaluate Josh Harrison, it will be important to consider all contributing factors. For instance, last season represented a down year for Harrison offensively as he hit .250/.293/.363 with a mere eight HR. Harrison only managed to play 97 games in 2018, the lowest amount since 2013, as injuries plagued Harrison’s 2018.

At the same time, Harrison’s number from 2014-2017 were fairly consistent:

Year Games Batting Average On Base Percentage Slugging Percentage Home Runs Stolen Bases
2014 143 .315 .347 .490 13 18
2015 114 .287 .327 .390 4 10
2016 131 .283 .311 .388 4 19
2017 128 .272 .339 .432 16 12

Credit: Fangraphs

While these numbers aren’t “Ruth-ian” to any extent, they represent a relatively productive hitter with multi-positional value.

Defensively last season, Harrison played 87 of his 97 games in 2018 at second base. Harrison has logged over 1800 innings at third base in his career while also playing solid defense. To develop a clearer picture as to how Harrison stacks up against the rest of the league, I will use a stat which accurately allows me to do so-called UZR/150, otherwise known as Ultimate Zone Rating runs above average per 150 defensive games.

Third Baseman UZR/150
Anthony Rendon 8.1
Josh Harrison 6.9
Nolan Arenado 5.9
Kyle Seager 3.0

Credit: Fangraphs

While this stat only tells one part of the whole story, such as how Arenado has insane arm strength and how Seager makes an incredible amount of “unlikely plays,” it is interesting to note how Harrison stacks up with some of the best in the game in this relatively comprehensive statistical category.

Another aspect of what would make the acquisition of Harrison interesting is the recent acquisition of Greg Garcia off waivers from the Cardinals. Another player who can play all over the infield, Garcia, unfortunately, does not have the offensive skill set to be starting games on a regular basis– something that is very apparent from his 2018 slash line of .221/.309/.304 with three HR. Instead, it can be assumed that Garcia will be used in a similar capacity to how he was used in St. Louis– the late inning defensive substitution which will allow Andy Green to have more options in double-switch situations.

However, one could also make the argument that the Padres should be targeting other similar, and potentially less expensive, free agent options such as Marwin Gonzalez or Yangervis Solarte. Gonzalez with his previous postseason success with the Astros, and Solarte with his past success in San Diego, are both are perfectly viable options. So why pay Harrison more to do what Solarte and Freese could do?

The answer to that question is simply the undeniable truth that Josh Harrison is one of the most exciting players in baseball. Period.

Don’t believe me? Just watch this video.

Not only does Josh Harrison’s miraculous escape from “pickle-related-peril” in 2014 draw a stark contrast to the amount of hustle displayed by potential 300-million-dollar-man Manny Machado this past postseason, it exemplifies a player which will give you all he has on a nightly basis– something that, if one has watched the Padres over the past few seasons, often comes into question.

Affectionately known across the league as “J-Hay”, Harrison is also the former Heart and Hustle Award winner (2014) and the former Pirates’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee (2017). These are two honors which embody the type of ballplayer that old-school baseball fans dream of: a consummate professional who runs out every play and is heavily involved in the community.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

And for a young core of prospects coming up to the big leagues over the next two to three seasons, there seems to be no player– and person– better than Harrison to help guide our young players.

Also, when forecasting how the Padres will seek to develop their young talent over the next few seasons, young position players such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias will need days off. As a result, Harrison will be able to spot either player at either position while still providing productivity to the lineup.

Additionally, with a current log-jam of outfielders and a below-league-average lineup, the Padres are in a prime position to immediately add an experienced infielder who will be able to provide the organization with the consistency and flexibility necessary to develop a winning product.

If the Padres want to obtain a player of Harrison’s caliber, what kind of contract should the Padres offer him?

A deal which may be referenced in the monetary evaluation of Josh Harrison was the four-year, $56 million deal that Ben Zobrist got with the Cubs. Zobrist signed this deal in his age-35-season, which at an average annual value of $14 million, seems like a lot for a utility player in his late thirties. But given just how valuable this type of player is to a roster, it is somewhat understandable that teams will pay for this type of productivity.

While Harrison will most likely not get as lucrative a contract as Zobrist did, I think the ideal contract suitable for both the Padres as well as Harrison would be a three-year, $24 million contract. This contract would allow the Padres extra financial flexibility to spend on other supporting pieces while giving Harrison the opportunity to be fully involved in both the development and eventual thriving of a franchise whose trajectory is going in no other direction other than up.

Will Ron Fowler and A.J. Preller capitalize on this seemingly perfect fit? Or will this organization let yet another opportunity pass them by?

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Ben Friedl
A recent USD graduate, Ben grew up in San Diego and has been a life-long Padres fan. Currently, Ben is residing in Chicago, IL where he is pursuing his Master's degree in Sports Media Journalism at Northwestern University.

11 thoughts on “Should Padres Sign Josh Harrison to Fill Void?

  1. A 3 year deal for Harrison is nuts. The Cubs were ready to win a WS and felt Zobrist was one the pieces to take them there. And he’s 6’3″ if that matters, not 5’8″.
    The absolute last thing to do is sign a 31 year old coming off a lost year due to injury.
    No on Harrison, and no on Solarte – christ!.
    We need to figure out which young players will make it, and add in veterans when we get close.
    This team is not close to anything except perhaps 4th place.

  2. While this is one of many articles to come about who we “should” get, I think there’s some merit here. And parting company with a lot of Padre fans, I’d rather see Harrison on this team than Spangenberg. I’m still fairly mystified why we continue to hold onto middle of the road players with way below average bats anyway. Granted, Spangy is an improvement on Alexi Amarista- but not by a whole lot. While I can’t stand the Dodgers and am not a Sox fan, emulating the blueprint they have going forward isn’t the worst idea- this is otherwise known as having bench players who can also hit. Cory Spangenberg isn’t the answer folks, he’s peaking and can’t muster anything respectable behind the plate. Move along. PS: nicely done.

  3. I initially got excited when i saw Harrison was a free agent. But we have a lot of infielders right now and 4 guys who can play 3B – Villanueva, Spangenberg, Garcia, and Myers. We need to clear out a couple before we jam too many into the mix. Myers is my first choice.
    Also, we have a bunch of starting pitchers who need to develop if we are going to make the playoffs. Luccesi, Lauer, Nix, Paddack, Allen, Strahm, Quantrill, and others need to comprise our rotation. Getting one “top of the rotation” guy is just going to impede their development. The youngsters are our championship rotation. Let them develop together.

  4. Ben,

    I appreciate your passionate review, but I believe that signing Harrison would be a waste. We have a J-Hay in Spangy, with better speed and more versatility. The knock on Spangy is that his BA is not quite as strong. Save the cash right now and get a front line starter who can be a “stopper” and also mentor the kids. Clayton is great, but his best role would be in long relief at this stage of his career. To be honest, a J-Hay signing is a luxury; he’s the versatile bench piece that a contending team brings in to complement the open window… a window that isn’t open for us just yet.

    1. Just curious why Clayton is great and Spangy is even an option. Clayton, other than injuries had a terrible year and really is not a rotation option on most teams. Why even waste a roster spot on him in the BP? Just curious. Spangy while listed as fast doesn’t really make a difference on the bases or in his defense. I’m just curious why many people seem to be on board with these players who are frankly, playing poorly.

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