Rich Harden was once considered the crown jewel of the Athletics organization. He had a live arm that registered triple digits on the radar gun and was the model of consistency during his tenure with the A’s. Like every other power pitcher that has been rushed to the big leagues, Harden soon developed shoulder problems.
After the 2005 season he had to be shut down for essentially a season and a half. He came back in 2008 and went 5-1 for the A’s before being traded to the Cubbies in a 6 player deal. He was lights out for the Cubs going 5-1 and was the ace of their staff.
Unfortunately, thanks to a lousy Cubs team in 2009 he went 9-9 but still struck out 171 in 141 innings pitched. His arm was beginning to show signs of deterioration though as he only average about 5 innings a start. Because of the arm and past injury concerns, he found it very difficult to find a team for the 2010 season. The Texas Rangers rolled the dice and signed him for one year at $6.5 million with a mutual option for 2011.
He had a tough season this year, only going 5-5 with a 5.08 ERA and not even coming close to the strikeout per inning ratio that is his average. He especially looked spent the last two months of the season, where he routinely got pounded. The Rangers decided to leave him off the roster for the ALDS and shortly after, designated him for assignment, which essentially closes the door on his Ranger career. So now we have a 28 year old with a 55-33 record, 3.55 ERA and 858 strikeouts in 848 innings.
He is going to have to reinvent himself as a bullpen guy if he is going to continue his career. His days as a relevant starter have come to an end. He must progress now like Kerry Wood has done or else go off into the sunset. As for his autographed cards, on eBay they are selling for about a dollar. However like the cad pictured below, if thee are patches or a limited edition, they might go for as much as $25 (as the card below went for recently). I would definitely buy one of his autographs as I rooted for the guy since he was in the minors. But it would take a big Harden fan to pick up the piece below for $25.