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Harden, a free agent-to-be, was skipped in his last turn through the rotation because of fatigue after some heavy pitch counts in short starts this month. But he said his right shoulder, which he has had trouble with in the past, feels "the best it has felt in a long time."
"I've gone through the season with no problem with that," Harden said. "It'd be a lot different if we were in [contention] and needed me to pitch; I'd be out there in a second. I'm still healthy and feeling good."
Whether Harden returns next season after going 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts might depend on how deep the Cubs think their starting pitching is and what his market value figures to be.
OK, so maybe he's fatigued. But 1) why should the Cubs care, and 2) if the Cubs don't care, why would Harden admit anything? He's still got great stuff, obviously. But he's hitting free agency this winter having a) not having pitched in the season's last three weeks, and b) not having thrown even 150 innings in a season since 2004?
Harden earned $7 million this season, and was worth it. But the best predictor of future injuries is past injuries, and there's just no reason to think that Harden deserves the big payday he'll undoubtedly be seeking this winter.