Should The Pirates Shop Josh Harrison This Offseason?

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Harrison had a disappointing 2016 season that as cut short due to injury. Also, Adam Frazier emerged in 2016. So, should the Pirates shop Josh Harrison this offseason?

Prior to the start of the 2016 season the Pirates traded away starting second base man Neil Walker. A big reason they did this was due to having Josh Harrison on the roster. Harrison seemed prime to take the second base job and run with it in 2016.

However, 2016 was a disappointing season for Harrison. Furthermore, his 2016 season was cut short due to a quad injury. This leads me to wonder, should the Pirates shop Josh Harrison on the trade market this offseason?

In April of 2015 Josh Harrison signed a contract extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Due to this contract Harrison is now under team control through the 2020 season. However, this contract is starting to look like a bit of a mistake.

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At the time of the extension, I was not a huge fan of it. The contract came on the heels of a great 2014 season in which Josh Harrison slashed .315/.347/.490/.837 with a .365 wOBA, 137 wRC+, a .175 ISO, and a 5.0 WAR in 550 plate appearances. However, prior to 2014 Harrison had done nothing to prove worthy of a contract extension.

Entering the 2014 season Harrison had 575 career plate appearances. In these 575 plate appearances Harrison owned a .250/.282/.367/.649 slash line, .283 wOBA, 78 wRC+, 117 ISO, and a 1.0 WAR. So prior to the 2014 season Harrison had been a very well below league average hitter.

Since signing his contract extension Josh Harrison has returned to being, at best, a replacement level player. In 971 plate appearances since the start of the 2015 season Harrison has slashed .285/.318/.389/.707. This includes a .306 wOBA, 94 wRC+, 3.8 percent walk rate, 15.1 percent strikeout rate, .104 ISO, and a 2.7 WAR.

Things got particularly bad for Harrison this season. Prior to having his season cut short due to a quad injury Josh Harrison had 522 plate appearances this season. In those 522 plate appearances Harrison had a .283/.311/.388/.699 slash line, .300 wOBA, 88 wRC+, a 3.4 percent walk rate, 14.6 percent strikeout rate, and a 1.4 WAR. This is not good enough to justify Harrison’s contract.

It would not be fair to look at Harrison’s numbers without discussing his strong defense, though. In 2016 he was the Pirates’ everyday second baseman before getting injured. At second base Harrison had eight defensive runs saved. And in 2015 he had two defensive runs saved at second base.

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In 2017 Josh Harrison is owed 7.5 million dollars. He is then owed 10 million in 2018, 10.5 million in 2019, and 11.5 million in 2020. Unless Josh Harrison plays better than he did in 2015 and 2016, this is more than he is worth.

The average rule of thumb is that each point of WAR is worth six million dollars. So, a 1.0 WAR is worth a six million dollar contract. While it is very possible Harrison produces a WAR worth the 7.5 million he is owed in 2017, it becomes very unlikely after that.

Aug 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (26) runs the bases on his way to scoring a run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (26) runs the bases on his way to scoring a run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

While the struggles of Harrison factor in when debating if the Pirates should shop him this offseason or not, so does the emergence of Adam Frazier. In 133 plate appearances this season Frazier owns a .325/.376/.455/.831 slash line, 6.8 percent walk rate, 15.0 percent strikeout rate, .130 ISO, .360 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 128. Frazier also has a 14.4 UZR/150 at second base with zero defensive runs saved.

Adam Frazier has been an average defensive player at second base in 2016, unlike Harrison who has been above average. However, Frazier’s offense has been such a huge upgrade over Harrison that one could argue it offsets this.

The question becomes, due to Adam Frazier, is Josh Harrison expendable? Trading Josh Harrison and his contract could give Neal Huntington more, time for everyone’s favorite term!, financial flexibility. This money could then be reallocated into the starting rotation or bullpen.

I am not saying I would trade Josh Harrison this offseason. However, I would certainly consider it. Largely due to having Adam Frazier. Especially since Adam Frazier has hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching well in his Major League career.

Ultimately, Josh Harrison leaves a lot to be desired as a Major League Baseball player. The Pirates could very easily have players, *cough* Adam Frazier *cough*, who are better than Harrison available to play second base. So trading Harrison in an effort to help the pitching staff should be considered.

In 2017 Adam Frazier could easily play second base for the Pirates and bat lead off. And he could do this, successfully, against both right-handed and left-handed pitching. If I were Neal Huntington, I would not shy away from shopping Josh Harrison this offseason.