Three-time All-Star adds depth to rotation
The Nationals are quickly knocking items off their winter to-do list. The latest move, according to a baseball source, is agreeing to terms with free agent pitcher Dan Haren.
The deal would be for one year and $13 million but remains contingent on Haren passing a physical Thursday. And that could be an issue for a 32-year-old who was traded last month only to have the transaction scuttled at the last minute. Haren was then still a member of the Los Angeles Angels and had been traded to the Chicago Cubs for relief pitcher Carlos Marmol. The deal was eventually called off.
Haren is a 6-foot-5 right-hander who would slot nicely into a rotation that already features Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in the National League Cy Young voting last month, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. Haren has pitched for four different teams -- the St. Louis Cardinals, the Oakland A's, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Angels -- but has had success with all of them. He has made an All-Star team three times and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting in 2009 and seventh in the AL Cy Young voting in 2011.
Prior to 2012, Haren pitched at least 216 innings in seven consecutive seasons. No current Nats starter in their young rotation has ever thrown that many. In his prime with Oakland and then Arizona, Haren posted ERAs of 3.07 (2007), 3.33 (2008) and 3.14 (2009). He struggled in 2010 (4.60 ERA) with the Diamondbacks but rebounded in 14 starts with the Angels after a midseason trade (2.87 ERA). The next year he was excellent (3.17 ERA) again and pitched another full season.
At his best, Haren has been a No. 1 starter -- though Washington doesn't necessarily need him to perform at that level if things go according to plan. Strasburg (3.16), Zimmermann (2.94) and Gonzalez (2.89) were all excellent last season and Detwiler (3.40) wasn't far behind. The Nats also expect to have Strasburg for a full slate of starts in 2013. There will be no innings limit controversy for him this season.
The medical issues for Haren include a stint on the disabled list in July with a sore lower back and a hip condition that, according to an interview he gave to the Washington Post on Tuesday, has been present throughout his career. In 2012, Haren managed just 1762Ú3 innings, the fewest since his second year in the majors with the Cardinals in 2004 when he was still a rising prospect. Following the collapse of the Marmol trade, the Angels chose not to exercise a team-option for $15.5 million on Haren and instead paid a $3.5 million buyout.
Haren struck out 142 batters in 2012 and walked just 38. He has always had excellent control and the hope is that a diminished fastball -- once capable of hitting the low-90s consistently and now more often sitting in the high 80s -- won't spell the end yet for Haren as an effective force. Switching back to the National League should help there. But this is also a Nats team where last year's "fifth" starter, Edwin Jackson, set a high bar with a 4.03 ERA in 1892Ú3 innings. He was due to make $13.3 million if the team chose to grant him a qualifying offer. It didn't, choosing to pursue other options, which eventually led them to Haren.