Did the Washington Nationals improve their pitching staff by signing Los Angeles Angels free agent Dan Haren or was it a lateral move? Will Haren give them anything more than the man whose place he is expected to take, Edwin Jackson?
Like every team in Major League Baseball, the Nationals are always searching for quality fourth and fifth starters. Before Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman cemented their places at the top of the rotation Washington had a patchwork staff at best, with no ace. John Lannan was the opening day starter in 2010 and he spent 2012 at Triple A Syracuse. Now, with the addition of Ross Detwiler last season, the Nationals have four quality starters.
Going into the spring of 2012, Washington decided to sign Jackson away from the St. Louis Cardinals and make him their fourth starter. He was not expected to win a lot of games or have a low earned run average. The Nationals hoped that Jackson could eat up innings and give the other pitchers a day off from time to time. If Washington made it to the post season, the team hoped that his playoff experience with St. Louis would be a plus. For this, Washington paid Jackson $11 million.
Though he finished with a 10-11 record and 4.03 ERA, the Nationals got what they wanted out of Jackson in the regular season. In the post-season they did not, as he was hammered by the Cardinals in game three of the NL Divisional Series. After this outing, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Washington would not resign Jackson and give him a raise to $13 million at season’s end.
The Nationals did not bother to make an offer to Jackson and went in pursuit of another starting pitcher. Washington decided that Haren was the man that they wanted and signed him to a one year, $13 million contract last week. In looking at their 2012 statistics, one could say that Haren and Jackson are similar pitchers.
Haren finished 2012 with a 12-13 record and 4.33 ERA. He pitched 176 2/3 innings compared to Jackson’s 189 2/3. Haren started 30 games and Jackson 31. Washington gave Haren the same offer that they would not give Jackson despite the fact he only won two more games and actually lost three more. This has to make one wonder if the Nationals improved their pitching staff or just filled out their rotation.
One can not argue with Washington wanting to replace Jackson. Though he was a true professional and did what the team asked, Jackson did not show enough to warrant signing for another year. The team needed someone more consistent to take his place. The Nationals went into the off season hoping to improve their pitching staff by letting Jackson go and bringing in someone else.
However, signing Haren for one year to the same contract that they would not offer Jackson seems like a lateral move at best.