Cincinnati Reds should pass on hometown product Josh Harrison

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 23: Josh Harrison #5 of the Pittsburgh Pirates round the bases after hitting a three run home run during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 23: Josh Harrison #5 of the Pittsburgh Pirates round the bases after hitting a three run home run during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Josh Harrison playing for his hometown Cincinnati Reds looks perfect on paper.  However, the Reds need to resist the urge to bring him home.

Josh Harrison grew up in the Queen City playing at Princeton High School before graduating and starring at the University of Cincinnati.  Following Pittsburgh’s decision to decline their 2019 option on Harrison the longtime Pirate is now a free agent.  Given his history and the Cincinnati Reds tradition of bringing home local heroes, the fit seems almost too easy.

While heartwarming stories and sentimentality are nice they are not the foundation on which competitive teams are built.  Some fans may point to the fact that he’s a two-time All-Star and has a Top 10 MVP voting finish to his credit. But if you take a close look at Harrison’s numbers it appears his best days may be behind him.

During the 2018 season, Harrison produced a .250/.293/.363 slash line with an 80 OPS+.  In other words, he was well below average at the plate.  Even though 2018 was an especially tough campaign at the dish for Harrison it wasn’t completely out of character.

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Throughout his 8 years in the Steel City, Harrison generated a 100 OPS+ season only twice. When you combine that with a career .317 on-base percentage and career walk rate of just 4.0% he simply doesn’t manufacture enough quality at-bats to warrant significant playing time.

Being a threat on the base paths was once an essential part of Harrison’s game.  He’s had four seasons where he stole at least 10 bases.  The former Pirate stole a career-high 19 bases in 2016, but over the past two seasons, he totaled 12 thefts in 2017 and just 3 this past season.  Considering the fact that he’ll turn 32 next summer it’s fair to assume these declining returns are more than a trend.

Versatility has also been a hallmark of Harrison’s value.  He has spent the majority of his career playing all over the diamond.  However, in the past three seasons, he’s predominately seen time at only second and third base.  Those positions are currently occupied by two of the club’s best offensive weapons.  As long as Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suárez are healthy it’s hard to imagine Harrison being more than an expensive pinch hitter for the Cincinnati Reds.

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Josh Harrison donning a Reds jersey would make a wonderful feel-good story and provide plenty of positive news for a franchise in desperate need of it.  Nevertheless, sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality.