Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Offseason Target - Dan Haren

The Los Angeles Angels hold a $15.5M option for RHP Dan Haren's services in 2013.  If they choose not to exercise that option, and there are reports that they will not, the Angels will pay Haren $3.5M in a buyout and then try to find a pitcher to match or equal his production for the net $12M.

This season was not Dan Haren's finest.  In 2012, the age-31 Haren provided only 1.8 WAR by pitching 176 innings over 30 starts to the line of 4.33 ERA/4.24 FIP/4.00 xFIP.  Remember when Dan Haren was a great pitcher?  If not, it's because it happened alllllllll the way back in 2011.  This past season was the first season since Haren became a full time player back in 2005 that he did not pitch 200+ innings or accumulate at least 4.0 WAR in a season.  In 2011, he was worth 6.1.

Dan Haren never had a blazing fastball, but his velocity on it did drop from 90.0 mph in 2011 to 88.5 in 2012, which is a potential red flag.  Haren is primarily a 4 pitch pitcher, with his 4 seam fastball (88.5 mph), a cut fastball (84.6), a split finger fastball (83.5 mph), and a periodic curve ball (76 mph) as his arsenal.  Haren's 4 seam fastball has never been a great out pitch, but it eroded in 2012 with a -1.13 runs/100 pitches value.  His split finger has historically been hit most successful and it was true in 2012, with a +0.91 runs/100 pitches value.  As a point of reference to the reader, A.J. Burnett in 2012 had a range of +1.19 runs/100 on his curveball to a -1.10 runs/100 on his changeup, with his fastball at -0.09 runs/100.

In 2013, Haren will pitch the majority of the season at 32, which is not ancient by any stretch in baseball terms.  But how do you properly place value on a pitcher that is a consistent 4 to 6 win performer that suddenly drops to 1.8?  If you prescribe to the theory that the National League is the easier league, due to the pitcher spot and "weaker" lineups, then you could theoretically add 0.5 WAR to his value.  Even if you say Haren is a 1.8 win pitcher ($9M in free agent value, at $5M/WAR) to 2.3 wins ($11.5M), you're in the neighborhood of where it would make sense for the Angels to retain him, thanks to the large buyout of $3.5M.

Perhaps the Angels just want a change from Haren or perhaps they have the most information that his decline may be starting.  Even if Haren would pitch 176 innings and provide 1.8 WAR in 2013 as he did with the Angels in 2012, that still would have been the 2nd most innings and WAR by a Pirate starter this year (Wandy Rodriguez's split stats aside).  If you feel that Haren can provide an uptick in performance and re-establish himself as a 200 inning pitcher and 2.0 WAR, the 2013 Pirate pitching staff would then have three 200-inning horses in the stable with Burnett (202 IP in 2012), Rodriguez (205 IP combined in 2012), and Haren.

This move would continue to lengthen the Pirates' rotation and push McDonald down to the #4 spot.  At that point, the team would not be so reliant on his up-and-down nature and take his performance received as a bonus to what they get from Burnett/Haren/Rodriguez.  With the first four rotation spots set, the Pirates could keep the 5th spot between Locke and McPherson (if they intend to non-tender Karstens) until Gerrit Cole's performance is deemed worthy of a promotion to the Major League club.

Haren's market is probably murky at this point.  Will he be seen as a pitcher that needs to re-build value on an incentive-based contract?  Will a team snap him up immediately on a guaranteed contract for $15M/year?  Depending on how the Pirates read the tea leaves on Haren, would they be wise to shanghai Haren in a trade with the Angels and take him off the market?  Using the A.J. Burnett Model of Pitching Acquisitions, the Pirates could get the Angels to defray some of Haren's 2013 $15.5M salary in exchange for a fringe prospect.

However you want to define the Pirates' collapse of 2012, there are probably few who would debate the merits of continuing to bolster the pitching staff.  The more innings consumed by the starters means less innings absorbed by fringy middle relievers.  Having another workhorse like Haren would serve that purpose.

1 comment:

  1. I'm on board, since I've always loved me some Dan Haren. Maybe it's the scruffy Irish-Mexican thing he has going, maybe it's the fact that he still bears the stank of Billy Beane(who I just can't quit), buuuut.....

    It appears that a couple hours ago he may have been traded to the Cubs for, wait for it, Carlos fucking Marmol.

    Prolly just as well. With his slow delivery to the plate and the Pirates disdain of holding baserunners I can only imagine how many extra runs they'd have hung on him were he a member of the staff(I don't really mean that if you're reading, Dan. I still love you.)