Dodgers Finally Get Their (Old, Old) Men

Photo via Jon SooHoo's wonderful blog, http://dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com/

Via Ken Gurnick, we’ve learned that for the Dodgers, signing Aaron Harang and Jamey Wright this winter was actually the culmination of years of interest on the club’s part.

Harang:

In their third year of trying, the Dodgers finally landed starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who is expected to help plug an innings hole created by the departure of Hiroki Kuroda.

The Dodgers made a run at Harang at the 2009 Trade Deadline, again that offseason and yet again in the spring of 2010 before finally signing the free agent in December for two years and $12 million.

“It made it more enticing, knowing it wasn’t something just spontaneous, like, ‘Let’s just go after this guy,’” Harang said. “It’s been in the back of my mind that they’ve wanted me a while. That made it an easier decision, knowing people want you and have been working at something for multiple years.”

Wright:

This year’s Jeff Weaver. Wright pitched in relief for Seattle last year, appearing in 60 games with a career-best 3.16 ERA. A one-time innings-eating starter, Wright has pitched in relief exclusively since 2008. He had a deal worked out with the Dodgers for 2009 but failed a physical, a curious result considering he’s been a workhorse ever since.

That 3.16 ERA for Wright was of course accompanied by a 4.30 FIP, so let’s not get too excited about it; still, the usual “he’s an NRI so I don’t really care that much” caveats do apply. While we don’t know the terms of Wright’s scuttled potential deal back in 2009 – which, honestly, came as news to me – I do wonder if having successfully signed “this year’s Jeff Weaver” at the time may have prevented the arrival of the actual Jeff Weaver, who joined the team on February 9, 2009 after an atrocious 2008 spent entirely in the minors.

Back to Harang, we had heard rumors about the club potentially having interest in him in the 2009-10 offseason, as they desperately looked for a place to dump Juan Pierre before finally shipping him off to Chicago for John Ely and Jon Link. I don’t generally mind the idea of a big, innings-eating type to take up space in the back of the rotation, but it still kills me when I see things like this:

Harang, 33, is coming off a rebound season, going 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA for San Diego.

Uh-huh.

Harang, 2009
162.1 IP, 7.87 K/9, 2.38 BB/9, 4.14 FIP, 90.7 avg FB MPH

Harang, 2011
170.2 IP, 6.54 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, 4.17 FIP, 89.8 avg FB MPH

If it seems like Harang was better at 31 in 2009 than he was at 33 in 2011, well, I wouldn’t have much to argue with you on there. So what’s the big difference? Ah yes: 6-14, 4.21, vs 14-6, 3.64. It’s amazing what superficial stats (and Petco Park) still count for these days, and along with the dubious “number-crunching” that apparently contributed to the Chris Capuano deal, it’s fair to enter the season with a real amount of concern over the two older, injury-prone veteran imports who are only effective in larger parks like Dodger Stadium, CitiField, and Petco. Throw in Ted Lilly, yet another older flyball pitcher, and I’m starting to wonder if I need to look up what the team’s all-time record for biggest disparity in wins at home against on the road is. (I also can’t say that it helps that the Dodgers gave Harang $12m over two years after the Padres, who saw him up close all year, passed on their more reasonable $5m for one year option.)

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the excess of nearly-ready starting pitchers the Dodgers have, guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster, Chris Reed, and more. The more you look at the starting rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, the more you wonder if that kind of depth this year is less of a luxury, and more of a necessity.