The Detroit Tigers have reached a one-year deal with second baseman Josh Harrison according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Free-agent infielder Josh Harrison in agreement with the #Tigers on a one-year contract, pending physical, source tells The Athletic. Expected to their everyday second baseman.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 20, 2019
Harrison is expected to take over the everyday second base duties for the Tigers, though he’ll need to pass a physical for the deal to be finalized. The 31-year-old second baseman became a free agent in November when the Pirates choose not to exercise the $10.5-million option in his contract for 2019. Despite being a model of consistency in the prior four seasons, Harrison took a step back in 2018. He finished the 2018 season at a .250/.293/.363 (AVG/OBP/SLG) batting line in 374 plate appearances, a terrible .656 OPS, and a 0.3 WAR.
From 2014 to 2017, Harrison posted a combined 12.5 WAR, played in two All-Star games, hit 118 doubles, and 37 home runs and posted a .759 OPS.
The move reunites Josh Harrison with his former double-play partner on the Pittsburgh Pirates, recently acquired Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer. Mercer and Harrison played together with the Pirates for seven seasons from 2012-18. The duo will bring plenty of experience to the Tigers’ middle infield mix.
Bringing in a veteran player like Josh Harrison doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for young players to emerge, but then again there aren’t really any rising stars ready to force their way into the lineup for the Tigers. Much of the high-end talent the Tigers have acquired so far during the rebuild has been of the pitching variety.
While Harrison will likely see most of his playing time at second base, but it is his ability to be a potential backup in several different spots makes him a great addition to the Tigers roster. In addition to second base, Harrison is capable of playing third base and the corner outfield spots. Since the Tigers don’t have an established designated hitter, a rotation of Harrison, Jeimer Candelario, and Niko Goodrum can be used to ensure that everyone gets the occasional day off in the field while they switch off as the designated hitter.
Nicholas Castellanos and Christin Stewart run the risk of being the worst defensive outfield duo in baseball this year, but Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire needs to keep their bats in the lineup. Should either of the duo prove to be too much of a defensive liability, Harrison could most certainly be used. Should Castellanos be traded this season, Harrison is a decent backup plan while the Tigers work to get one of their young outfield prospects ready to play.
Speaking of trades, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that Harrison could be traded to a contender later this season. Veteran player + manageable contract + the ability to play multiple positions = potential coveted trade chip at the deadline. Similar to how the Tigers flipped Leonys Martin for Willi Castro (their top shortstop prospect and No. 10 prospect overall), Harrison is a player that could generate some solid return for the team if a playoff-bound team in need should call. These are the types of savvy moves that can speed up the Tigers’ rebuild.