Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Angels might let Dan Haren walk; should the Dodgers pursue him?

As the Dodgers attempt to hold onto their less than 1 percent chance at making the playoffs after exploding for eight runs on Wednesday, I'm looking at a potential starting pitcher they could look at this winter.

I wrote last week the Dodgers were a lock to sign Zack Greinke this offseason. I still think they'll go after him, but an intriguing name could be available this winter.

The Angels are reportedly contemplating to ditch Dan Haren (and Ervin Santana, but who cares about that) and his $15.5 million club option ($3.5 million buyout) this winter in order to re-sign Greinke.

I've always been a Haren fan, even when he was hitting home runs against the Dodgers as a member of the Cardinals and when he shut down the Dodgers often as a member of the Diamonbacks.

Haren, 32, isn't as dominant as he used to be, but he could be the No. 2 starter the Dodgers are sorely lacking. However, there are some causes for concern.

First, he's having arguably the worst season of his career. A vast majority of his number are trending in the wrong direction.

Here are some of his 2011 numbers next to his 2012 numbers:

ERA: 3.17 to 4.35
WHIP: 1.02 to 1.30
FIP: 2.98 to 4.29
HR/9: 0.8 to 1.4
K/9: 7.25 to 7.13
BB/9: 1.25 to 2.07 (still good, though)
K/BB: 5.82 to 3.45
fWAR: 6.2 to 1.6

His workload could be the reason for his regression. Since 2005, when he became a full-time starter, he hasn't throw fewer than 216 innings in a season, averaging 226 per season since that time. He threw a career-high 238 1/3 innings in 2011, which was one of his best to date.

But the biggest cause for concern could be his decreasing velocity.

Haren has never been a fireballer (91.9 MPH is his career-best), but he's not even averaging 90 MPH on his fastball this season. It's down to 88.5 MPH. In fact, he's throwing all his pitches at a lower velocity this season.

So, that's something to take into consideration if Haren reaches the open market.

A 3-year deal would have to be mandatory (I assume) with a starting point of $12 million a season. I'm thinking a 3-year, $39 million deal with a fourth-year club option. It sounds like a lot of money, but it'd be a hell of a lot cheaper than spending more than $100 million on Greinke -- as long as Haren's very best days aren't behind him.

The free agent market will work itself out. There will be more players available than there are right now. Haren might not even be one of the top pitchers available come November (good chance he will be, though), so the Dodgers should rush (unless they're going after Greinke).

With the potential issues with the rotation, a starting pitcher is going to be atop the Dodgers' winter shopping list. And Clayton Kershaw desperately needs a legitimate No. 2 starter backing him up.

If only Chad Billingsley was that guy all the time.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

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