|Haren could make some team happy in 2013. (US Presswire)|
And from where I sit, he appears on his way to being a bargain -- with a caveat, which we'll get to later. First, let's look at why he could be a bargain.
We've long seen teams overpay for career years and lamented. With Haren, it's entirely possible the opposite will ring true.
|More free agency coverage|
Let the rubes scoff at Haren's 2012 campaign, in which he went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 176 2/3 innings. In taking only full seasons, Haren posted the worst ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, strikeout total and hits per nine innings of his career. He equaled his career high in losses and career low in wins.
Advanced statistics looked bad, too. Haren posted a negative WAR (Baseball-Reference.com version). His 4.24 FIP was his worst since a 14-start rookie season.
So why could Haren be such a bargain? Because nearly everything about the season screams outlier.
Haren is 32, not 38. There's no reason to think that he's washed up in his early 30s. And before this past season, there were few more consistent than Haren. Don't get me wrong; he's not an elite ace. But here's his average season from 2005-11: 14-11, 3.49 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 195 K, 45 BB, 226 IP, 34 GS.
Pay particular attention to those last two stats. Haren was a workhorse until 2012, as he went six seasons without missing a single start, piling up the innings. And this is a perfect segue to his ills in 2012.
For the first time in his career, Haren was forced to hit the disabled list in 2012. He actually pitched through back pain for a bit before being placed on the DL, so it surely affected his performance. He dealt with mechanical issues upon his return, but that makes sense as he was likely compensating for back pain.
And then, he seemed to return to his former self.
In Haren's last eight starts, he went 4-3 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 41 strikeouts and just five walks in 48 innings pitched.
So, no, last season's numbers wouldn't give me pause one bit on signing Haren. What does is what happened Friday night.
What we know is that the Cubs and Angels had agreed upon a trade. We know the Cubs asked Carlos Marmol to waive his no-trade clause, and that he seemed ready to do so. We know the deal was then called off. Given Haren's back issues this past season and the fact that teams generally check medicals in the last stages of finalizing a trade, did the Cubs see something in Haren's medicals about his back that caused them to back out of what appeared to be an excellent deal? We don't know that at this point, but it seems possible.
The bottom line is Dan Haren is now a free agent and appears to be a very attractive one ... as long as his back is fully healthy.