Transaction Report 1/31/05
The Move-The Devil Rays resigned reliever Travis Harper
The Terms-One year, $850,000
The Details-The Rays reached agreement Monday with their longest tenured active player, Travis Harper, who has been with the team on and off since 2000, in and out of the starting rotation. The deal, consumated to avoid an arbitration hearing, reaches a happy medium between the arb figure the Rays offered ($800,000) and what Harper wanted ($900,000). The signing leaves 1B Travis Lee and C Josh Paul as the only two player on the roster who still are facing an arbitration hearing, Paul on the 15th and Lee on the 20th.
The Analysis-Harper, 30 years old on May 21st, returns to the Rays for what seems like his tenth season next year. Originally selected by the New York Mets in the 1994 draft, Harper did not sign and was picked in the draft three years later by Boston in the third round. Having spent parts of the last six seasons as a sometimes decent, sometimes good, sometimes terrible pitcher, Harper sprinted right through the Rays' minor league system before making a promising ML debut with the team in 2000, appearing in six games, and five starts for the Rays, pitching to a 4.78 ERA. Over the next few years, he was slowly weaned off the starting role, making mostly bullpen appearences, and, except for a few slip-ups like last year, pitching decently. Overall, Harper has a career ML ERA of 4.94, with a K:BB of almost 2:1. He also has a decent 1.39 WHIP and a decent 1.34 HR/9.
But all of that is just averages. Harper is a maddiningly inconsistent player who appears to be reliable one day, and then just bombs next time out. Whether it has been individual outings, stretches of play, or even years, that basicly sums up Harper's career. Still, after his piss poor year last season, he is due for a good year this season, and, like all other deals the Rays have made, not a lot has been invested in the deal, so there is no pressure if Harper crashes and burns. But to be sure, a 6.75 ERA like last year is not going to cut it, and for the tenured Ray to stay that way, he must deliver more performances like those seen in 2003 and '04, when he had ERAs of 3.77 and 3.89, respectively. But for the pitching staff's sake, let's hope Harper does return to his solid ways next year.
-A Happy Birthday goes out to Rays 2B Jorge Cantu, who turned 24 on Monday. Enjoy the farm in Reynosa for the next few weeks, Señor Cantu, and get ready for camp in a few weeks!