New Nationals pitcher Dan Haren passed a physical by the team’s medical staff on Thursday and his one-year, $13 million contract became official on Friday afternoon.
That medical exam was the only hurdle left before the Nats added to an already formidable rotation. Haren, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, flew into Washington on Wednesday, toured Nationals Park, met a few teammates, walked around the city a bit and eventually took his physical and flew home to California.
It capped a whirlwind free-agent process. But Haren, 32, had already sold his family on the idea of playing on the East Coast just in case the Angels, his former club, decided to trade him early this offseason. That didn’t happen, but the Los Angeles native – he went to high school there and played college baseball at Pepperdine – figured the chance would come again this winter after he took a $3.5 million buyout. When the Nats showed interest relatively recently it didn’t take Haren long to decide.
“I just thought that if the Nationals were competitive with what the other teams were offering, that the Nationals just were a better fit for me,” Haren said. “There was quite a few offers and there was a couple offers from the West Coast, which my family probably would have liked a little bit more just because I would have been closer to home.”
With his buyout in hand, Haren didn’t want to push too hard in negotiations if he saw a fit like the one he found with Washington. That $13 million is still not chump change, but a reasonable risk for a pitcher who topped 200 innings pitched for seven straight years before that sore back ended his streak in 2012.
A hip condition that Haren has known about since college concerned some teams. That mystified and frustrated Haren, who said he has never missed a start or even had one pushed back in his career because of it. He admitted those issues likely kept his offers to one year instead of the three or four-year contracts a pitcher of his caliber could normally expect on the open market. But Haren emphasized that there were still plenty of teams interested in his services.
“I think I have a lot to prove this year. Very confident I’m gonna stay healthy. I feel great right now,” Haren said. “Done some things that were recommended to me last year. Maybe losing a little bit of weight, doing some core exercises and gaining some flexibility – all things that I’ve pretty much done already and that I’ll continue to do leading up to spring training. I’m 100 percent confident that I’ll be healthy this year and be able to contribute on a high level.”
Haren says no doctors have connected his sore lower back of last summer to the hip condition. He spent 18 days on the disabled list, calling it “kind of a group decision” to even go on in the first place. The inflammation in his back, Haren said, subsided after just a day on the disabled list. He wanted to come back in 15 days. Instead the team insisted on a minor-league rehab start. His stats were solid down the stretch once he fixed some mechanical flaws after returning. Haren didn’t allow more than three earned runs in a game over the final eight starts as the Angels pushed hard for a playoff spot before falling short.
“I definitely finished up last year the way I expected the whole year to go. But that said I’m sure coming into this year I’ll get off to a little bit of a better start. I’ve always been known to start off pretty fast. I’m expecting that next year.”
Follow Brian McNally on Twitter: @bmcnally14