The Nats filled their 5th starter hole today, signing Dan Haren to a 1yr/$13M deal.
Haren looks like a possible fantastic pick-up for this rotation, giving them a legitimate #2 MLB starter capable pitcher to supplement the four returning rotation members from 2012. He’s a sinker-ball pitcher (throws the sinker 34% of the time) who can reach 90-91 and throws a large variety of pitches en route to a career 7.6 K/9 rate. I think he just may be fantastic in the NL east. Even Keith Law likes the deal, a surprise since I can’t remember the last time he “approved” of a deal the Nats have made.
Haren struggled with back issues off-and-on in 2012, depressing both his numbers, his velocity and his free agency value, but heretofor was an incredibly durable pitcher (he’s averaged 219 innings per 162 games over his entire career, throwing 238 1/3 in 2011) with a penchant for putting up lights-out numbers (he had a 1.003 WHIP for an entire season in 2009 for Arizona, pitching in a hitter’s park). Law noted that back issues all year were the cause of both his dropped velocity and his rising sinker, leading to his elevated ERA, and that a healthy Haren should have no problems returning to his typical form. Some have noted concerns about his hip (sportswriters tweeting that Boston reviewed his medical records and passed on signing him), but others have noted that the Angels (who seemingly know his medical history the best) had a 2-year deal on the table. If the Angels wanted him back, I’m more confident that the Nats don’t have damaged goods on their hands.
I really like this deal. Haren was on the second-tier of free agents that I thought would be good fits here (Dempster, Sanchez, McCarthy being other examples) but I never thought he’d leave Los Angeles. I understand why he was forced to sign a one-year deal (a very ill-timed injury plagued season, in his contract year), but he now has a chance to move to the NL, rebuild some FA value and springboard into 2013 free agency much as Edwin Jackson did last year. I have always considered him a near-Ace pitcher in this league, and it may be the Nats great fortune to get him on a one year deal.
With this piece of business, I only see a couple more moves/decisions required this off-season:
- Re-Sign Adam LaRoche and/or install Michael Morse at first for 2013.
- Maybe sign one more lefty, possibly Michael Gonzalez (or not, if you’re confident that Bill Bray is healthy).
- Maybe pursue some middle infield depth, looking to replace the Mark DeRosa role from 2012.
Coincidentally, does Haren’s signing mean the team is no longer looking to move Morse? Lots of the talks with Tampa and Baltimore seemed to surround trading for MLB starting pitching. But now there’s no room in the rotation. Maybe now we’re looking to trade Morse for prospects instead of MLB ready guys, a move I’m completely on-board with given the farm system drain of our starters lately.