Free Agent Market: Dan Haren

With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda both hitting free agency (or more threatening: retirement/Japan), the Yankees will need to add one if not two proven starting pitchers this offseason. One player who seems to fit this profile is Dan Haren. Prior to his mediocre 2012, Haren was an excellent pitcher for years. Since he became a full time starter with the Oakland A’s way back in 2005 until 2011, he threw at least 216 innings and was never worth less than 4 WAR.

However, things fell apart a bit in 2012 as Haren posted an unimpressive 4.33 ERA and was worth just 1.8 WAR. Although it seems like he’s been around forever, Haren was still only 31 this past year. Although, Haren threw more pitches than anyone in baseball from 2005-2011 so it’s possible that it’s finally catching up with him. Looking a little more closely though, no too much seemed to have changed with Haren. His 3.87 SIERA from last year isn’t too far off from what he’s done in years past so perhaps some bad luck played a role. Here’s his 2012 compared to 2011 which was one of his best seasons.

Virtually everything moved in the wrong direction; but, there were no drastic changes. It should also be noted that Haren had an atrocious stretch in from June 9th to July 3rd before he admitted that he was pitching with a back strain and went on the DL. Over those 5 starts, he surrendered 9 homers and 26 earned runs across 27 innings. Considering all of this, we have little reason to believe that a healthy Dan Haren is much worse than the version we saw up until 2012. However, we do have reason to believe he’s less than completely healthy.

For one, his fastball velocity was down slightly last year and was especially low after his injury. More importantly though, the Angels couldn’t trade Haren and proceeded to decline his 2013 option. The Angels were supposedly close to swapping Haren for Carlos Marmol of the Cubs until Chicago mysteriously backed out of the deal. This was the first red flag on Haren given Marmol’s contract and propensity to walk batters.

Haren’s option was worth $15.5 million with a $3.5 million buyout. So essentially, the Angels believe he’ll be worth less than $12 million which would equate to around 2 or 3 WAR. Not only that, but apparently every other team agrees with this conclusion. The Angels couldn’t even manage to ship him away for some minor league scrub like they did with Ervin Santana. Haren wasn’t great in 2012; but, it’s hard to imagine that not one team thought he would be a 2-3 win player next year. He was pretty darn close last year (1.8 WAR) even with his injury and slightly bad luck. Clearly, there’s something going on with Haren that we don’t know about and an injury is the most obvious explanation.

All of this doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees should avoid him at all costs. Based on what’s happened so far, Haren will end up signing a 1 year deal for something less than $12 million. Based on his track record, he certainly has the potential to be worth much more than that. However, there would be some significant risk involved. Whether or not that risk is worth taking will be up to the Yankees’ brain trust and medical staff (plus being contingent on Pettitte and/or Kuroda leaving). Either way, signing Haren wouldn’t be nearly enough to fill out the team’s pitching void this offseason. While he could be a useful pitcher next season, there would still be a lot of uncertainty at the back end of the Yankees’ rotation.

Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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