|Red Sox land Rich Harden for Lars Anderson, player to be named||07.30.11 at 10:02 pm ET|
CHICAGO — One by one, the dominoes started to fall.
On Friday, Erik Bedard had a terrible outing in his return from a knee sprain, retiring just four of the 11 batters he faced.
On Saturday, Hiroki Kuroda informed the Dodgers that he would not waive his no-trade clause, thus taking him off the market.
Also on Saturday night, reports had the Rockies and Indians closing in on a deal that would send starter Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in exchange for prospects (a package headlined by left-hander Drew Pomeranz and also including right-hander Alex White), even as Jimenez — somewhat shockingly — took the mound for the Rockies against the Padres.
The group of desirable starters on the market dwindled rapidly, to the point where the Red Sox were left with few places to turn if they did indeed want to acquire an upgrade for their rotation — a matter that has become a somewhat pressing concern in recent days amidst the growing concern about the health of Clay Buchholz, out since mid-June due to a back injury, going forward.
And so, the Sox did not remain passive. Instead, as the Red Sox played the White Sox on Saturday night, the Boston front office was moving to acquire the best option remaining on the market in landing Athletics right-hander Rich Harden.
Harden has dealt with numerous injuries through his career that have limited to an average of 97 frames per season from 2005-10, a pattern that continued with a muscle strain under his right arm that kept him out for the first three months of this year. But when he is on the mound, he features legitimate top-of-the-rotation stuff. He has struck out more than a batter an inning throughout his career, including this year, when in five July starts he went 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 1/3 innings. If indeed power pitching is at a premium in October, then Harden would represent the prototype option of the sort of pitcher whom teams like to feature in their rotation (albeit one who is 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in four postseason games).
In exchange for Harden, a major league source confirmed, the Red Sox sent first baseman Lars Anderson to the Athletics as part of a package that will also include a player to be named. Once the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system, Anderson has seen his stock drop in recent years as questions arose about whether his power did not develop.
This year, with Triple-A Pawtucket, Anderson was hitting .261 with a .362 OBP, .420 slugging mark and .782 OPS, along with 10 homers. However, he has recently experienced something of a power surge, hitting .296/.367/.571/.938 with six homers in July. And at the age of 23, Anderson’s advanced approach at the plate suggests that if he does develop power, he could be a fine option as a big league starting first baseman.
That opportunity was unlikely to come in Boston, however, given the deal that landed Adrian Gonzalez with the Red Sox during the offseason followed by the seven-year extension that will keep him in Boston through 2018. And with Anderson’s offense insufficient — at least right now — to forge a role as an everyday major league DH, he became a chip with whom the Sox could part.
While getting traded can prove shocking, for Anderson, the deal represents a homecoming. He hails from the Bay Area, having attended Jesuit High School in Sacramento. An 18th-rounder in the 2006 draft, Anderson actually was convinced to sign with the Sox in no small part due to his experience during a workout at the Athletics’ home ballpark in 2006.
Harden would appear to represent a rental player, since he is eligible for free agency after the season and he is unlikely to qualify for either Type A or Type B free-agent status, which would entitle the Sox to draft pick compensation if he turned down a potential Sox offer of salary arbitration.
Nonetheless, given the shape of the 2011 club — which harbors significant October ambitions — and the fact that Anderson did not represent a cornerstone prospect, it was a move that the Sox were willing to make.
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