Why the Pirates are Still a Good Fit for Josh Harrison

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Josh Harrison provides consistent value to the Pittsburgh Pirates and is the perfect leader to help a core of young Pirates players mature into a competing team as early as this year. Neal Huntington should look to console Harrison’s legitimate concerns of a rebuild in 2018 and give Harrison the tools needed to be a team leader.

Full disclosure: Josh Harrison has been my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate since he stepped foot in PNC park for his first at-bat in 2011. I still remember writing letters to him when he was bouncing between AAA and the Major League club – ecstatic for the next magical at-bat or fielding miracle that J-Hay would bring to my television. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the excitement, passion, joy, and pure love for the game that Josh brought to Pittsburgh the past seven seasons.

There has been a good deal of trade speculation surrounding J-Hay (mostly with the Brewers, Mets, and Yankees), and the likelihood of a trade only increased when reports surfaced that Harrison was unhappy with the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. However, because Neal Huntington is not committing (at least verbally) to a complete rebuild of the team there is a chance that J-Hay stays a Pirate. With all of that being said, I will do my best to set my bias aside and make an argument for why the Pirates should hold on to Josh Harrison until at least this year’s trade deadline.

1. Josh Harrison is not Andrew McCutchen or Gerrit Cole

Andrew McCutchen was traded for three reasons, money, a potential drop in trade deadline trade value due to a slow start to the 2018 season, and a contract that ended after the 2018 season. Gerrit Cole was traded due to his value in received prospects relative to his performance. If Neal Huntington is not completely tearing down the Pirates and is trying to compete in 2018, only one of the above listed reasons would apply to trading J-Hay, the money.

Harrison is due $10.25 million for the 2018 season. This may be a little pricey for the Pirates, but the club currently has a lot of extra spending money, even by the standards of a small market team. There are certainly no pressing needs to trade Harrison for extra money, even at $10.25 million.

In addition, Josh Harrison won’t attract a king’s ransom worth of prospects, at least not at a level of Gerrit Cole (3 potential opening day starters/rotation starters). Don’t get me wrong, J-Hay is a valuable player, but right now the market is slow, especially for position players. Finally, J-Hay’s value isn’t a threat to suddenly drop due to inconsistent play or an expiring contract – as will be explained below.

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2. Josh Harrison provides consistent value with multiple years of contract control

Overall, Harrison provides decently consistent production and gives the Pirates a valuable utility fielder with All-Star hitting upside. Since earning a full-time starting role in 2014, Harrison has hit .290/.331/.429 with 37 home-runs and two All-Star Game appearances. In addition, Harrison had a positive WAR and hit above .270 in each of those four seasons. Even though J-Hay hit for his lowest average out of the past four seasons last year, he increased his plate discipline and his power, hitting a career high 16 home-runs. This consistent production will give Neal Huntington the confidence he needs to see if the Pirates are in playoff contention before making a final decision on Harrison’s future as a Pirate. There shouldn’t be any large concerns about Harrison’s production sharply dropping before the trade deadline.

Even though Harrison only has three years of control, three years is definitely within a potential playoff window for the Pirates. There have not been any trade rumors surrounding Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco, who have four and six years of team control left respectively. This means that Neal Huntington also believes a playoff window could be opening sooner rather than later.

3. Josh Harrison has the leadership and spirit that a young team needs

It is well documented that J-Hay can be a locker room leader and the heart and soul of a team. Please click on all of those links if you don’t believe me, this guy is stellar, a true leader with a ton of love for others and the game of baseball. If this young team shows promise, I guarantee that Harrison will be the first player to step into a leadership role. His love for the game and natural energy is the perfect combination needed to lead a young group of growing players that have some of the highest ceilings in all of Major League Baseball.

Even though many Pirate fans are discouraged by the recent trades and perception of a rebuild, there are still many Pirates players that will be exciting to watch this season, including Josh Harrison. I have no doubt that Harrison will buy into the team if Huntington truly is looking to compete this season. Hopefully, Neal Huntington will recognize the value that J-Hay can add to the 2018 Pirates roster and at least keeps Harrison on the roster until the trade deadline.

Let’s go Bucs!