The Milwaukee Brewers remain in the hunt for help at second base, and according to Jon Heyman we can add another name to the heap of players that they are reportedly considering:
Josh Harrison, very good super utility player with plus 39 DRS at 2B/3B, has interest from Nats, Reds, Rangers, Giants, Brewers, with Yanks, Phils, Dodgers potentially in play, depending on the big guys
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 27, 2018
Harrison, 32 next season, debuted in the big leagues with the Pirates back in 2011 and spent the last eight seasons suiting up for the Steel City Nine. He became a full-time player for the Pirates in 2014 and put together the finest season of his career that year, batting .315/.347/.490 with 13 home runs and 18 steals across 550 plate appearances. That prompted the Pirates to ink the infielder to a four-year, $27.3 mil contract extension before the 2015 season that came with two option years tacked on at the end.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Harrison never again came close to replicating that 2014 season. He has reached double-digit home runs and a league-average batting line (per wRC+) only once since then, in 2017 when he batted .272/.339/.432 with 16 dingers in 542 plate appearances for a 104 wRC+. In 842 MLB games and more than 3,000 plate appearances, Harrison is a .277/.317/.408 hitter (98 wRC+, 97 DRC+) with 52 long balls and 75 steals.
Harrison’s offensive production cratered in 2018, when he could manage only a .250/.293/.363 slash with eight homers and three steals in 374 turns at the bat. His 78 wRC+ was the worst he’s totaled since 2012, although a DRC+ of 89 suggests that he was a bit more effective as a hitter than his surface stats suggest. His hard contact rate was more or less static from 2017-18 (32.9%), though last year he struck out and swung-and-missed more often than he ever had in his career.
The Pirates declined Harrison’s $10.5 mil option following the conclusion of the season, instead paying him a $1 mil buyout and allowing him to become a free agent. Harrison provides positional flexibility in that he’s capable of playing second base and third base and has previous experience at shortstop and the outfield corners, though he didn’t grade out particularly well at any one defensive home in 2018.
Harrison did not rank among MLB Trade Rumors’ top-50 free agents, and could fit with the Brewers as an inexpensive, one-year bridge to Keston Hiura and/or Mauricio Dubon that could then move to a utility role once one of those two is deemed ready. But he just hasn’t been a very valuable player at the MLB level lately, which is why the Pirates let him walk.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus