Late last week, we learned quite a bit about what people inside the game think of the health of right hander Dan Haren.
Just days after the Los Angeles Angels were able to swing a deal with the Royals that effectively showed that at least one team felt fellow righty Ervin Santana was worth one year and $12 million, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto found no takers on a trade that would have moved Haren at essentially the exact same price.
Instead, Haren became a free agent when the Angels declined a club option that would have paid him $15.5 million. He received a $3.5 million buyout.
Just looking at it from a distance, it would appear that either the Royals vastly overpaid for a year of Santana or the entire league missed the boat on Haren. There must be something else going on, right?
Well, there is.
For the first time in eight years, Haren failed to toss 200 innings in 2012. He missed some time due to back issues, but still took the ball 30 times. In those 178 innings, Haren pitched nearly as well peripherally as he usually does. He struck out just over seven batters per nine innings while walking slightly less than two. His home run rate was slightly higher than his career average, as was is BABiP, which equaled an ERA of 4.33, just the second time since 2005 he’s gone North of 4.00.
from a cursory glance, it would stand to reason that, assuming he’s healthy, Haren would return to his normal very good self in 2013 and beyond. Surely a guy that’s been at worst a very good number two starter for the better part of a decade is worth what amounts to $12 million on a one-year deal, right? Apparently not.
Which makes everyone wonder if he’s healthy.
The Angels were talking with many clubs on a possible trade to move Haren before a decision had to be made on his option, none of them bit. Even the Cubs, who reportedly had a deal on the table that would have moved dumpster fire Carlos Marmol to the Angels, shied away for some reason.
It could be that Haren’s back issues are feared to be recurring – back issues often are – or it could be that Haren’s declining velocity may be cause for alarm. In 2007, Haren’s fastball averaged 91.8 mph but it’s been slowly dropping ever since. Last season in LA, Haren averaged a mere 88.5 mph on his heater.
Given his drop in speed, how has Haren been able to maintain respectable strikeout numbers? Well, much of the lack of velocity is due to a heavier reliance on a sinker and a cutter. Haren has taken to using those pitches more often than in years past and has used his excellent command to continue getting hitters out with great regularity. According to one scout, Haren looks to be the type of pitcher that could work effectively until he’s 40, even with diminished velocity.
But, for whatever reason, 30 clubs passed on the chance to have him on a one-year deal, so now Haren is on the market. It’s little surprise then to hear that the San Diego Padres could be interested in bringing the right hander to town. It would be even less of a surprise to find out Haren is interested in the Padres as well. San Diego is where pitchers go to re-build their value and even with adjustments being made to the PetCo Park dimensions, that doesn’t figure to change.
The Padres may not be willing to go to eight figures to land Haren, but they probably won’t have to. If Haren’s back is healthy, he can use the 2013 season to set himself up for one last big contract next year. If San Diego is willing to go to roughly $8 million on a one-year deal, maybe even with a mutual option for a second year, Haren could enjoy his rebound year with the Padres and hopefully prove himself once again.