Well, that was quick: three days ago, I looked into the Dodgers signing Dan Haren and decided that yes, this is something I would like. And now, according to Ken Rosenthal, it’s real! Haren reportedly will sign for one year and $10 million, with a vesting option for 2015 should he hit 180 innings.
At the time, I liked the idea; now, I like it even more. Dave Cameron actually calls it the early leader for “best signing of the offseason;” Jonah Keri said he “loves” it. Phillies fans wish their team could have done it, as do Cubs fans, and Twins fans, and, best of all, A.J. Ellis!
Why? Well, it’s partially how good he was to finish last year, if I can quote from myself:
When Haren returned in July, he knew that he almost certainly wouldn’t be back in 2014, and he was a completely different pitcher. In 15 remaining starts, his ERA was 3.29; his line against was .228/.271/.355; his K/BB was 84/18. His HR/9 dropped from an awful 1.84 to an acceptable 1.06; his GB% increased by 3%.
But it’s also because the market keeps trending upwards in terms of both years and dollars. Jason Vargas, who is mediocre to the point of tears, just got four guaranteed years from Kansas City. We keep hearing that Ervin Santana & Ricky Nolasco want all the years for all the dollars. Hell, Tim Lincecum got twice the guaranteed years and nearly four times the money.
Lincecum, it should be noted, has been in no way a better pitcher than Haren over the last three years. In fact, he’s been better than Lincecum and Tim Hudson and Vargas and Josh Johnson, and while Johnson did indeed get less in San Diego, he’s also missed significant time due to injury twice in three years.
So what’s next? Haren slots in behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, & Hyun-jin Ryu, tentatively ahead of Josh Beckett & Chad Billingsley, depending on their health. This probably takes Nolasco off the board, which is fine for the contract he’s likely to get, and I would say that it takes them out of the David Price sweepstakes, except that I don’t think they were ever really in that to begin with. I don’t believe this is going to affect the Masahiro Tanaka stakes, simply because Tanaka is the kind of talent you make room for, and if that means sending Beckett on a slow sailboat to Guam, so be it.
Haren’s no longer the ace he was, and it’s important to keep that in mind and set expectations properly. But barring serious injury, he seems like he can be a win or two over replacement, and the risk here is minimal. It didn’t cost a draft pick. It didn’t cost talent in return via trade. If he’s terrible, it costs only money, and even then, $10 million isn’t that much these days, especially for this team. You didn’t need to guarantee that second year, and if he’s good, you get it anyway.
It’s bad news for Nolasco, I suppose, who wanted to return. It’s hard to see how there’s any downside for the Dodgers, especially considering how loony some of the other pitching deals look to be this winter. So yeah: dig this.