Rebuilding Phillies Sign 36-Year-Old Pitcher, Give Him Roy Halladay’s Number

Yes, the Phillies are rebuilding. Yes, they signed 36-year-old Aaron Harang. But there's a reason the team made this deal.

The Philadelphia Phillies announced today they signed right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Harang to a one-year contract worth $5 million. He will wear 34, Roy Halladay’s old number.

“Aaron brings a wealth of experience and durability to our rotation,” General Manager Ruben Amaro said in a release. “He had a very solid season for the Braves last year and will complement the left-handers in our rotation nicely.”

Harang will be in his 14th season next year, having pitched previously for seven major league teams. With Atlanta last year, Harang went 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA. That put him at about league average, which he’s been for his career as well. In 358 games, he’s 122-128 with a 4.21 ERA.

So why are the Phillies — who have already traded Jimmy Rollins, and are in rebuilding mode — signing a veteran pitcher whose best season was the year Rollins won his MVP (2007)? The reason is alluded to in Amaro’s released quote: Not the experience, but the durability. Harang pitched 206 innings last year; he threw 143 innings the year before and 179 in 2012.

And those will be valuable innings. Though the Phillies are rebuilding, someone has to pitch. Sure, the Phillies could run out Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and a bunch of kids. But a better idea might be to leave some of the pitching prospects in the minors so they can develop more easily. The Phillies signed another 36-year-old, Wandy Rodriguez, to a minor-league deal as well. The team could also need extra pitchers during the season if it trades Hamels or Lee.

Yes, Aaron Harang is an older player on a rebuilding team. But he’s relatively cheap and he can throw a lot of innings. It’s a reasonable signing, if not an exciting one considering comparable players. But Harang should eat up innings. Just don’t expect the same magic the Phillies got in the first season of another No. 34. No, not A.J. Burnett; the guy before him.