Harang gets $36.5 million deal from Reds

Updated: February 6, 2007, 6:14 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Aaron Harang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $36.5 million, four-year contract Tuesday that made him the Cincinnati Reds' highest-paid pitcher.

Harang emerged as one of the NL's top starters last season despite pitching in a ballpark that is one of the most homer-friendly in the major leagues. He tied for the league lead with 16 wins and led the NL with 216 strikeouts and six complete games.

"They showed me dedication by coming to me with this type of deal before I was a free agent," said Harang, who could earn $47.25 million to $48.5 million over five years if the 2011 option is exercised.

General manager Wayne Krivsky talked to agents Sam and Seth Levinson about an extension last summer, but they were far apart in years and money.

"We kind of had a stalemate," Krivsky said. "We both agreed we were too far apart. We decided to rekindle those talks once the numbers were filed for arbitration. We made an offer, and they weren't that far apart."

Harang made $2.35 million last season, and wanted $5.5 million in arbitration. The Reds countered with a $4.25 million offer in arbitration, then went about trying to avoid the hearing by getting a long-term deal.

Harang gets base salaries of $4.25 million this season, $6.75 million in 2008, $11 million in 2009 and $12.5 million in 2010. There is a club option for 2011 at $12.75 million with a $2 million buyout.

If Harang pitches 210 innings in 2010, the option increases to $13 million. If he is traded, the option becomes mutual and increases to $14 million, with a $2.5 million buyout.

The 28-year-old pitcher's deal eclipses that of left-hander Eric Milton, who is entering the final season of a $25.5 million, three-year contract.

Cincinnati acquired Harang from Oakland as part of their 2003 midseason trading splurge. The ballclub moved into Great American Ball Park that season, and fired general manager Jim Bowden when it failed to contend. The Reds traded their veterans for prospects, and obtained Harang for outfielder Jose Guillen.

Since he joined the Reds, Harang has been the most dependable member of a pitching staff that has been the club's biggest weakness. He had his best season last year, going 16-11 with a 3.76 earned run average in 35 starts.

Harang was the only Reds player in arbitration. Less than an hour before the Reds held a news conference to announce his signing, Krivsky received a copy of the brief that Harang's agents had prepared to argue for the bigger amount in arbitration.

The agents' brief pointed out that Harang is one of only eight pitchers since 1960 to lead the NL in wins and strikeouts. The others: Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Dwight Gooden, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

"So Aaron had a heck of a year," Krivsky said. "He's just gotten better and better every year. He keeps setting the bar higher each year."

He also got some help in the rotation after the Reds acquired right-hander Bronson Arroyo from Boston during spring training. Arroyo went 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA in 35 starts, and led the team by pitching 240 2-3 innings. Arroyo will make a total of at least $8,075,000 during the two remaining years of his contract.

Harang is impressed with the way Krivsky has retooled the team since he took over a year ago.

"I'm looking forward to the direction we're going," Harang said. "I think they've done a lot to improve it. Just last year, it showed in how much better we got."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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