The Pittsburgh Pirates missed their chance to get Dan Haren.
Haren, now formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, became a free agent last night when the Angels declined his $15.5 million option for 2013. That should make it easier for the Pirates to acquire him right?
The track record of top free agents coming to Pittsburgh over the past two decades isn’t exactly long, and even if the Pirates could convince Haren to come to Pittsburgh, the commitment it would take wouldn’t be a good idea for the Pirates anyway.
Despite the hefty price tag for 2013 it would have cost the Pirates if they had traded for Haren, it would have been for just one year and wouldn’t have cost the Pirates much to acquire him via trade. They could have offered closer Joel Hanrahan, for example, and freed up almost half of Haren’s salary. At this point for the Pirates, a one year, $15.5 million commitment is a much safer use of resources than a 4-5 year deal for $50-75 million, which is what Haren will likely get from some team.
With the Pirates limited fiancial resources, they can’t afford to make mistakes. Haren does come with some inherent risk, given his drop in velocity over the past few years and the back injury that cost him time this past season. He is no longer the ace he once was, but should rebound into a reliable rotation member. For one year, even at an over-priced salary, the risk was minimal. The worst that could have happened is that Haren wouldn’t have lived up to his salary, and the Pirates would have let him go after the season.
But the Pirates should not be players for Haren now that he’s a free agent.
There will be a team, either desperate for starting pitching or looking to make a statement, that will give Haren the extra year, or extra dollars, he now craves on the free agent market. There is no guarantee that Haren rebounds to be anything more than the back-end starter he was last year, and while most believe he will, the team that gives him a big contract will be rolling the dice on his health.
The Pirates can’t afford to be that team.