If a veteran signs a make-good deal and doesn’t really make good on it, does he get pushed towards “flier” status for his next contract?
The answer to that question might actually provide some clarity for the Toronto Blue Jays‘ quest to, once again, bolster a starting rotation that was crushed by the weight of both ineffectiveness and injuries in the 2013 season. The potential target to alleviate the problem? Dan Haren.
Now, I know — why would the team what another aging, injury-prone starter on the decline, right?
It’s funny how a year can change things so drastically, because the former Los Angeles Angels ace would have probably been considered to be a good fit with the bluebirds’ rotation prior to the 2013 season, especially given his one-year, $13 million contract with the Washington Nationals that seemed like a semi-bargain at the time.
As Haren likely already knows, his next deal won’t be anything close to being that lucrative now (in terms of per-year salary anyway), and that’s why the Blue Jays ought to be keeping an eye out on the right-hander.
The fact of the matter is that the FA class in the upcoming offseason is rather thin. Outside of Matt Garza, there just aren’t a whole lot of names with a long enough track record of success to inspire confidence. I mean, it’s quite possible that the perennially up-and-down Ervin Santana could earn a contract that’s just as big, if not more so than Garza, which I think says quite a bit about the market on its own.
With the Blue Jays having other holes to fill at catcher and second base, you’d probably be right to guess that those aren’t the types of deals that the team is going to looking for, which means they’re going to have to look for talent with an eye on value and lack of financial commitment — players like Haren.
Make no mistake: though it might not have seemed like it for a good part of the season, the veteran righty is capable of being a productive pitcher in the middle or the back end of a rotation, with an upside to be more.
His failures definitely got the bulk of the attention with the Nats being that they came at the first half of the season, while the team was still coming to grips with the idea that that might not be earmarked for the World Series after all; but, he did deliver a strong second half with a 3.52/1.02 ERA/WHIP and .222 BAA over 75.2 innings pitched.
No, his velocity never improved, but it was the sign of a pitcher who’d been able to make the adjustments to pitch without the speed, and Haren actually improved his strikeout rate from 7.84 K/9 to 8.09, while maintaining his strong walk rate all season long (1.65 vs. 1.67).
It’s not something that Toronto would want to bank on per se, but considering that one of the top three ‘locks’ for the rotation are almost certainly going to be injured (Brandon Morrow), and the rest of the pitchers competing for the final spots are essentially a misfit island of potential back-end starters, a little cost certainty could go a long way.
Now, Haren will likely prefer to pitch for a contender, and given the Blue Jays’ 2013 season, there might be a little extra convincing to do by the team in that department (or any other FA target, really); that said, would a one-year deal in the mid-to-high seven-figure range with an option be worthwhile for both the team and player?
It’d be taking quite a risk on health and the second half, but the lengthy track record of longevity and excellence is there — and that can’t be said about most of the pitchers on the team (or arguably on the market), no?