Indians Offseason Target: Dan Haren


Dan Haren Looking to Bounce Back in 2014

I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Dan Haren. Maybe it’s due to the fact that he went to high school and college in Southern California, where I live. I remember being at a baseball camp at Pepperdine University when I was fresh into middle school. A few of the instructors there were raving about one of their buddies, Dan Haren, who was making his first start with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Or maybe it’s his eccentric delivery, one that he has managed to keep relatively consistent throughout the years. Either way, I’ve always had an appreciation for his talents, despite his decline in production recently.

For this article, and any future profiles, I’ll use terminology developed by fellow staff writer Steve Kinsella. Steve has come up with terminology to define potential free agent targets for the team – the “Sexy List” – (top-tier players who the Indians may target if they come down in price) the “Ruggedly Handsome List” (players who are a step below that, yet will still draw significant interest from multiple teams) and the “Ugly List” (high risk players with significant issues).

List: Ruggedly Handsome

2013 Salary/Contract Status:

Sep 11, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Dan Haren (15) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Haren signed a one year, 13 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals last winter, hoping to improve on a mediocre 2012 and lock up a long-term deal for 2014.

Last 3 Seasons:

Haren had an extremely effective 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels, pitching a remarkable 238.1 innings over 34 starts with 192 strikeouts to just 33 walks (5.82 K/BB ratio). He allowed just 8.0 H/9, and would finish seventh in AL Cy Young voting.

In 2012, however, Haren’s numbers dropped in every significant category (9.7 H/9, 60+ fewer innings in four fewer starts) and he battled an injury all year.

In the winter prior to the 2013 season, Haren signed with the Nationals. He showed little improvement from his overall 2012 numbers, yet Haren did have a much improved second half. A look at his 2013 splits shows a definite upward swing as the season went on, and his numbers were inflated due to a dreadful first three months:

Despite his inconsistency over the past three years, one thing that Dan Haren has always been able to lean on is his phenomenal control. He has always reliably limited his walks. In fact, Haren leads all active players in BB/9 with just 1.9.

Why Cleveland?

Aug 31, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Dan Haren (15) throws in the second inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians will most likely be in the market for another starter or two this winter, depending on how negotiations go with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. While it’d be easy to see Kaz falling into the Tribe’s price range, Ubaldo will likely command a large, long-term deal as one of the better pitchers in a thin free agent market. Perhaps the qualifying offer attaching draft pick compensation to Jimenez will let his asking price sink, but it’s unlikely.

Signing Haren would be a bit of a risky move, but he won’t be under a lot of pressure in Cleveland. The team has an underrated rotation – at the very least Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and perhaps even Danny Salazar will be returning – so Haren won’t be forced to the top of the rotation.

Even when you look at his 2012-2013 numbers, there’s nothing at all wrong with Dan Haren as a number four or five starter. And who knows, a gamble on Haren could pay off immensely if he comes anywhere close to his 2011 numbers. Even if he’s somewhere in between his 2011 and 2013 seasons, he’ll most likely be worth the contract he commands.

Type of Contract:

Dan Haren is 33 years old and coming out of the two worst seasons of his career. Hopefully, he’ll be looking for a one year deal somewhere between 6-10 million. With the ever-increasing price of a win (I’ll take this opportunity to link to former editor Lewie Pollis’ article on the subject) that is a very reasonable deal for Haren. When you consider the fact that the Tribe spent a similar amount on Brett Myers last year, it becomes even more intriguing.

Ruggedly Handsome List Members:

Justin MorneauPreviewed Here – could be an effective power bat to increase offensive flexibility for Terry Francona.

Ugly List Members:

Ryan Roberts – Previewed Here  – as vertical depth at Columbus in the event of injuries to infielders.

Jordan Norberto – Previewed Here – left-handed reliever who will spend most of year rehabbing from TJ surgery but would be under team control for three seasons.