August Trade Bait: Aaron Harang

Through the first two months of the season, Aaron Harang looked like a great signing for the Phillies. Then, an injury started to slow him down until he wound up on the disabled list, with numbers that were anything but impressive. He's healthy and with a couple strong starts, could draw some interest from other clubs.

Through his first 11 starts, Aaron Harang posted a 2.02 ERA and was 4-5 for the Phillies. He had 53 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings and had walked just 15 batters during that span. June saw Harang's numbers slide badly to the point where his ERA for the month was 7.28 and his first start in July wasn't any better, when he allowed eight earned runs in five innings against Milwaukee.

After that start, Harang went on the DL with plantar fasciitis. He returned last week, before even going on a rehab assignment, and was impressive in a start against Atlanta, throwing five innings, allowing just one earned run. The question now, is can he continue to work his way back to being the pitcher that he was over the first two months of the season?

Harang makes his second post-DL start tonight against the Dodgers. If he can put together another good start, it's likely that some teams could begin taking a look at him in anticipation of going after him later in the month.

One possible destination could be Pittsburgh, where a number of former Phillies figure prominently for the club in the near-future. The Pirates lost former Phillies starter A.J. Burnett for at least a month when he went down with a flexor strain in his right elbow. At first, there were concerns that Burnett could be gone for the rest of the season, but it now appears he will be able to return. Even so, there are no guarantees on what Burnett will be able to give the Pirates once he does come off of the DL.

The Pirates had acquired J.A. Happ at the trade deadline, but he was hit hard in his first outing with the Pirates, allowing four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. Pittsburgh also added Joe Blanton to the mix, but he worked primarily out of the bullpen for Kansas City and he's not much of a replacement for Burnett.

Harang - or a veteran pitcher like him - would be an adequate replacement for Pittsburgh to pursue, especially if Happ doesn't put together a quick turnaround. While his innings will fall well short of the 200 mark this season, Harang was a work-horse for Atlanta last season, giving them 204 1/3 innings, posting a 3.57 ERA. Even with his struggles this season in Philly, his season ERA sits at an acceptable 3.97 and a couple strong starts could bump it down at least a little more.

The return for a pitcher like Harang isn't going to be substantial, of course, but at this point, getting just a serviceable young player would be a plus for the Phillies. Harang is only signed through the rest of this season and it's likely that the Phillies would eat most of, if not all of, the approximately $1.7-million left on Harang's contract for this season. The Phillies have shown a willingness to eat money, knowing that the big bucks from the Comcast deal are about to roll in in the near future. That formula might bring a slightly better player in return for Harang than might be thought.

The potential exit of Harang would also allow the Phillies another major league roster spot for a young pitcher to get an audition. Jesse Biddle and Jerad Eickhorn are two names that could potentially benefit from a trade of Aaron Harang.

For right now, it's just a matter of watching what Harang does in his next start or two. If he throws well, teams could have an interest. If he can't find his way back to where he was in April and May, then he'll just limp his way through the rest of the season and likely return to the free agent market over the winter.

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