When the Twins signed Brendan Harris to a two-year contract during the offseason, it raised a lot of confusion among fans. Coming off a poor season, Harris had two remaining years of arbitration eligibility, meaning that the Twins had the option to go year-to-year and retain him at their own leisure for a relatively low price.
The obvious move, it would seem, was to tender Harris a one-year contract through arbitration and reevaluate his situation after the season. It wouldn't have even come as a huge surprise if the Twins had elected to non-tender Harris, given his lack of progress as a hitter in Minnesota and Ron Gardenhire's clear disdain for his lacking defensive abilities.
Instead, the Twins elected to lock up Harris through the 2011 season with a two-year, $3.2 million contract. At the time, the move seemed odd. Nearly two months into the 2011 season, the move seems more baffling than ever.
After going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts while filling in for Nick Punto at third base yesterday, Harris is hitting .188 this season with a .275 on-base percentage and .263 slugging percentage. Harris' ostensible value to this club is as a guy who can take over at short in the event J.J. Hardy should miss time and as a guy who can step in at third base to provide an offensive upgrade over Punto.
Up to this point, Harris has failed miserably in both of those areas. His performance at shortstop with Hardy on the shelf was so bad that the Twins were forced to call up Trevor Plouffe for a brief major-league debut. Meanwhile, Harris has somehow managed less production offensively than Punto, whose 555 OPS is quite execrable in its own right.
Factor in Harris' defense, which has been typically weak, and the infielder has been one of the team's biggest liabilities this season. FanGraphs has Harris' WAR (Wins Above Replacement) pegged at -0.1 thus far, suggesting he's been less valuable than a replacement-level player. After accumulating a solid 2.3 WAR for the Rays in the year before they traded for him, Harris has posted a 1.2 for the Twins in 2008 and a -0.1 in 2009. This year, he appears to be headed for his most dreadful figure yet.
Harris has been on a clear path of regression for several years now, and it's hardly surprising to see that trend continuing here in his age 29 season. Harris is not getting the job done in the plate or at the field, and by many accounts his attitude is hardly exemplary. He's become a big problem. Now, it's a problem the Twins are attached to through the end of next season.