Dan Haren Rumors

Dan Haren’s 2015 Option Vests

7:41am: Haren insisted to reporters last night, including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times (Twitter link), that he wouldn’t make a decision on whether or not to exercise his option until after the Dodgers’ season is over.

10:48pm: Dodgers starter Dan Haren now holds a $10MM player option for next season after notching his 180th inning on the year. By reaching that mark, he also triggered a $500K bonus (on top of $1.5MM in innings-pitched and games-started bonuses already met).

Haren, who just turned 34, joined the Dodgers on a one-year, $10MM deal that was filled with a variety of incentives. He has now achieved most of them, including the most valuable: the $10MM player option for next year. At one point, 180 innings seemed like a long shot, but Haren fought through a mid-season swoon and re-emerged as a much-needed piece of an injury-riddled rotation. Barring a decision to retire, Haren would seem to be fairly likely to take the option to continue throwing in his native California.

Of course, Haren could in theory still be tempted to test the open market. He has had an up-and-down year, but entered the day with a 4.14 ERA on the back of 6.9 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. That strikeout total would be his lowest since he became a full-time big league starter back in 2005.

But Haren remains a solid innings-eater (at worst) with plenty of value. Though his days of logging well over 200 frames a year in the low-to-mid 3.00 ERA range are probably over, he has still managed to make 30 starts a year going all the way back to that ’05 campaign. And ERA estimators believe Haren to be as good or better than his earned run totals would suggest: this year, he owns a 4.19 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, and 3.80 SIERA.


2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …

  • Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
  • Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
  • Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
  • Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.

2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. Here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options…

  • Nick Punto: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. He did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, though for the time being, he’s on pace to see his option vest simply due to the fact that he’s avoided the DL entirely. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would need to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He’s being platooned heavily with Scooter Gennett and has just 112 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Should he reach 400 PAs (which only seems likely in the event of Gennett injury), Weeks would be entitled to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins: Rollins’ option vests if he reaches 600 PA in 2014 or if he totals 1,100 options from 2013-14 and finishes the season on the active roster. He’s 141 PA shy of that combined 1,100 number, meaning he’s highly likely to end up with an $11MM guarantee for 2015.
  • Dan Haren: If Haren pitches 180 innings or more in 2014, he triggers a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. He’s averaging just over six innings per start, so he’s on pace to clear that mark given 30-31 starts. However, if he finishes the season anywhere near his current 3.54 ERA, he may prefer to test the open market in search of a multi-year deal.
  • Mike Adams: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 vests with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s once again on the disabled list for the Phillies and has thrown just 17 innings. Adams has thrown 42 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that they would pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles.
  • Rafael Soriano: Soriano’s $14MM club option will vest if he finishes 120 games combined in 2013-14. He’s currently at 81 games finished on the season, meaning he’d need to finish a rather unlikely 39 of his team’s final 92 games (42 percent) this season. Should the option vest, half of his salary will be deferred and paid in annual installments from 2018-25.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that threshold.
  • Sean Burnett: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs: Downs has a $4MM vesting option, and while the specifics haven’t been reported, Ken Rosenthal noted at the time of the deal that it would vest were Downs to pitch “a normal workload.” He’s headed in that direction, as he’s on pace for his highest innings total since 2011. Downs has pitched to a 5.48 ERA in his 23 innings, so the White Sox may not wish to see that option vest. Then again, he has a 3.95 ERA dating back to May 3, so he’s shown some signs of improvement.


Dodgers Sign Dan Haren

A down-and-up 2013 season did not prevent Dan Haren from landing an eight-figure guarantee, as the hurler has officially agreed to a one-year, $10MM deal with the Dodgers. The contract includes a $10MM option for 2015 that vests if Haren throws 180 innings. Haren is represented by Greg Landry of CAA Sports.

USATSI_7409866_154513410_lowresBoth the guaranteed and the option year base salaries could be boosted significantly by incentives. Haren can make up to $3MM in added cash in 2014 based upon games started and innings pitched, beginning at 24 starts and 150 innings pitched. 

Haren, 33, posted a 4.67 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 2013. His peripherals indicated that he deserved better than his ERA indicated, with an xFIP a run lower. Given that Haren isn't particularly old and that he's pitched at least 169 2/3 innings in every season since 2005, $10MM seems like a somewhat low total, particularly in an offseason in which Tim Lincecum got two years and $35MM and Jason Vargas got four years and $32MM. Still, MLBTR's Steve Adams had Haren pegged at one year and $10MM exactly, noting that Haren has already made $61MM in his career and might be willing to take less to stay near his family on the West Coast. Haren made $13MM last season as a member of the Nationals.

On Wednesday, we learned that Haren was talking to the Dodgers. He will join a Dodgers rotation picture that includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, though Billingsley had Tommy John surgery in April, and Beckett's health is also in question. Indeed, Dodgers' GM Ned Colleti says he is still considering adding another arm to the club's mix of starters.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) first reported the deal. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported via Twitter the vesting and incentive mechanisms. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweeted the deal's finalization and final terms.

Charlie Wilmoth and Jeff Todd contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Dodgers, Giants Talking With Dan Haren

THURSDAY: The Giants are also talking to Haren, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY: The Dodgers have been in touch with Dan Haren's agent, and "there's some interest on both sides," according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (on Twitter).

Haren, 33, pitched to the worst full-season ERA of his career in 2013 (4.67), but he finished particularly strong after returning from a stint on the disabled list this summer. Over his final 15 starts (16 appearances, as he made an unexpected relief appearance in a 15-inning game and earned his first big league save), Haren posted a 3.29 ERA with 84 strikeouts against 18 walks in 87 2/3 innings of work.

Haren was candid at season's end about the difficulty he had pitching in a city where he had few friends upon his arrival and being away from his family for the first time. Haren's wife and children live in southern California and he's from the L.A. area (Monterey Park), so the Dodgers would seem to be a logical fit for the former ace.

Haren has also been connected to the Twins, Yankees and Giants early in the offseason, though San Francisco reportedly hasn't been as aggressive in their pursuit and has already inked Tim Hudson to a two-year deal. I pegged Haren for a one-year, $10MM contract in my free agent profile earlier this month.


Giants Notes: Hudson, Lopez, Arroyo, Haren

The Giants' two-year, $23MM deal with Tim Hudson is drawing praise from several pundits.  MLBTR's Steve Adams, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron and ESPN's Keith Law all see the contract as a possible steal for the Giants since even coming off a fractured ankle, Hudson doesn't carry as many question marks as other starters who may command much larger deals.  Here's some more on the Giants…

  • The Giants don't like any of the free agent options to fill their hole in left field and will look to trade for outfield help at the Winter Meetings, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports.  The club could end up settling for a left-handed hitter to platoon with Gregor Blanco in left.
  • Also from Baggarly, the Giants have made some progress in talks with Javier Lopez.
  • The Giants are still looking for a left fielder and one more starting pitcher, ESPN's Buster Olney reports.  Olney guesses that Bronson Arroyo or Ryan Vogelsong could be that pitcher, depending on which contract is the better fit (Twitter links).  Vogelsong would obviously come at a much lower price than Arroyo, though if San Francisco could cheaply address their left field situation, I could see them spending extra to acquire Arroyo.
  • The Giants checked in on Dan Haren, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter link) but "other teams [were] far more aggressive," according to a source.  The Twins and Yankees have been linked to Haren so far this offseason.
  • Also from Schulman, it seems as if the Giants aren't going to offer any starter more than three guaranteed years.  This could keep them from landing Ricky Nolasco, who is looking for a four-year contract.

Giants Notes: Hudson, Sandoval, Haren

The latest out of San Francisco..

  • One of the Giants’ chief pitching targets, Tim Hudson, is now willing to move across the country to pitch for the right team, sources tell Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Schulman also hears that the Braves offered him a contract with a significantly smaller salary than he earned last year ($9MM), one he is not inclined to accept.
  • Schulman also caught up with MLB Network's Peter Gammons in Orlando, who told him the Giants are getting a lot of calls on Pablo Sandoval. It would make sense to listen on Sandoval because he is only signed through 2014 and has an injury history, but both reporters have heard that San Francisco not inclined to trade him because they have no real alternatives at third base.  The Giants also can't afford to lose Sandoval's power.
  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter) hears the Giants are serious about signing a Hudson or Dan Haren type to a one- or two-year deal with a higher average salary than one might expect.

Giants Notes: Hudson, Arroyo, Haren, Tanaka, Lopez

The Giants haven't needed to focus on upgrading their rotation in a while but the team is clearly looking to add starting pitching this winter.  Here's the latest out of San Francisco…

  • The Giants are looking at a long list of starters that includes Tim Hudson, Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  As many as a dozen pitchers could be on the club's wish list, Schulman says, though it isn't yet clear if the Giants will bid on Masahiro Tanaka (Twitter links).  Beyond the Giants, Hudson has drawn interest from seven other teams and is already considering an offer from the Braves.
  • The Giants are "well-positioned" to sign Arroyo, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets, though it depends on how the veteran righty's market develops.
  • The Giants are thought to prefer short-term deals for starters, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reports, which would explain their targeting of veteran arms like Haren or Hudson.  Since the Giants' rotation already has some solid pieces, Castrovince argues that GM Brian Sabean should focus most of his available resources on an offensive upgrade like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo.
  • Since signing Tanaka wouldn't cost the Giants draft pick compensation like some other top free agent pitchers, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle feels the team should put some of its new TV contract money towards acquiring the Japanese right-hander.   
  • Barry Meister, Javier Lopez's agent, tells MLB.com's Chris Haft that a "significant number" of teams have contacted him about his client but Meister is "continuing to talk to the Giants."  Both Lopez and the Giants share a mutual interest in continuing the southpaw's time in San Francisco though since Meister said he has only had "very preliminary" talks with other teams, the market has yet to fully develop for Lopez's services.

MLBTR's Jeff Todd also contributed to this post


Yankees Making Tanaka A Top Priority; Won’t Pursue Ervin Santana

The Yankees are planning to make Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a "top priority" this winter and are considered the team to beat in bidding for the 25-year-old, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Writes Passan: "If re-signing Robinson Cano is priority No. 1 for the New York Yankees this offseason, securing the rights to Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka is No. 1a." 

The Yankess "are going to be bold" in bidding for Tanaka, Passan continues. Previously, Passan has spoken with executives who believe that Tanaka's posting fee could top $75MM, although we still don't quite know how the posting system will work going forward. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have been working on alterations to the posting process for quite some time, and George A. King III of the New York Post reported earlier today that a resolution could still be several weeks away. Under the previous system, Tanaka could have been posted on Nov. 1.

Passan writes that Yankees officials aren't concerned about previous failures of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa on the big stage in New York, adding that they liken Tanaka's makeup and personality to that of Hideki Matsui.

The Yankees are in the market for two starting pitchers to pair with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova next year, Passan continues, and they're intrigued by Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Dan Haren. The Yankees are not expected to be in the market for Ervin Santana, he adds, as they don't feel that he would fit well in New York. Jimenez and Santana would cost the Yankees a draft pick due to the fact that each is all but certain to reject the qualifying offers received on Monday. Garza and Haren did not receive qualifying offers.

The Yankees figure to have some deep-pocketed competition for Tanaka, as the Dodgers are expected to be aggressive in pursuing him, and he's on the Angels' radar as well. Despite the success of Yu Darvish, reports have indicated that the Rangers aren't expected to be big-time players for Tanaka, of whom they don't think as highly as Darvish. The Giants, another team that has spend liberally of late, aren't expected to be serious players for Tanaka either, despite having some interest.

The Yankees' motivation may be greater than that of any other suitor, as Tanaka fits within their desire to reduce payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Tanaka's posting fee won't count against that tax, and his average annual value could be notably lower than the current crop of Major League free agent pitchers.


Free Agent Profile: Dan Haren

After a down season that saw the Angels decline their team option on him, Dan Haren signed a one-year, $13MM contract with the Nationals with the hope that a return to the Senior Circuit could boost his free agent stock. Unfortunately for Haren, 2013 brought more of the same, for the most part, and he's now set to head into free agency two seasons removed from his last ace-caliber campaign.

Strengths/Pros

Few pitchers in the game can boast better command than Haren, who has averaged more than 1.9 walks per nine innings just once in the past six seasons. Haren walked just 4.3 percent of the batters he faced in 2013, trailing only Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo among free agents.  Haren-Dan

Haren has only been on the disabled list only twice. While both of those instances have occurred in the past two seasons, Haren seemed perturbed to be placed on the disabled list this season, implying at the time that the move was made more to give him a mental break than due to any true physical ailment in his shoulder.

Whether or not there was an injury severe enough to merit a DL stint, it's hard to argue with Haren's results after the time off. Upon being activated from the DL, Haren rattled off a 3.29 ERA over his final 15 starts (and one relief appearance in which he picked up a save in a 15-inning marathon game). Over those 16 appearances, Haren was in vintage form, striking out 84 batters against just 18 walks in 87 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted just .228/.271/.355 against Haren in that time.

Both xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (3.60) feel that Haren's ERA should've been at least a full run lower than the 4.67 at which he finished.

National League clubs looking to sign Haren will be pleased with the offense he provides. The average NL pitcher hit .135/.167/.174 in 2013. Haren, who was an excellent hitter in his college days at Pepperdine, has a lifetime .215/.240/.312 batting line in 353 plate appearances. That line isn't pretty, but it's leagues better than most of his mound brethren can boast.

Haren recently turned 33, so while he's on the wrong side of his prime, he's not so old that there's no hope for him to sustain his second-half success over the course of a full a season next year. He didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Nats, so there's no draft pick compensation tied to Haren.

Weaknesses/Cons

One of Haren's main problems is that he's become increasingly homer-prone since 2012. Always a fly-ball pitcher, Haren's ground-ball rate dropped to a career-worst 36 percent in 2013. For the second straight season, he averaged more than 1.4 homers per nine innings, and that was coming in a pitcher-friendly stadium in the National League. Haren's average fastball velocity has clocked in at 88.7 mph over the past two seasons, which could have something to do with the increase in homers.

Haren's strikeout rate has dropped off in recent years. After averaging 8.7 K/9 with the Diamondbacks, he dropped to 7.2 K/9 with the Angels from 2010-12. This season with the Nationals, his strikeout rate climbed back to 8.0 per nine, but the move back to the NL played a large role in that jump. Haren whiffed nearly half of the opposing pitchers that he faced after facing just four pitchers in 2012. His K% against non-pitchers in 2013 (19.7 percent) was only a marginal improvement over his 2012 mark (19.1 percent).

Hitters are squaring up the ball with more frequency when facing Haren. His opponents' line-drive rate has risen in each of the past three seasons, climbing from 18.8 percent in 2010 to 19.5 percent in 2011 to 20.7 percent in 2012 to 21.9 percent in 2013.

From 2005-11, only CC Sabathia threw more Major League innings than Haren. Once a virtual lock to provide 220+ innings, Haren has failed to top 180 in each of the past two seasons. The 169 2/3 innings he totaled in 2013 are the fewest he's thrown in any full season.

Personal

The baseball offseason lines up well with Haren's interests, as he's an avid fan of the NFL and college football. His wife and two young children live in California, and Haren expressed the difficulty he found in being away from them to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore late in the season: "From a personal standpoint, it was really tough," Haren said. "I hadn’t been away from my kids. It’s a year of their lives I’ll never get back. From that standpoint, it’s sad."

Market

In a candid interview with MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko, Haren recently said that he's never had as much self-doubt as he did in 2013, and coping with his struggles in a city where he knew few people was difficult at times. At a few points, things got so bad that he debated retirement. Haren acknowledged that he won't have as much say in where he lands this offseason as he did in 2012-13, but his preference is to pitch on the West Coast. His hometown of Monterey Park, Calif. is just minutes outside of Los Angeles and is a mere 120 miles from San Diego. Having spent 2005-07 with the A's, the Bay Area is a familiar environment as well, and both Oakland and San Francisco could look to add a veteran starter this winter.

If Haren can't find a home on the West Coast, many other teams will be looking for rotation help. The Pirates have shown a recent affinity for starters whose xFIP numbers dwarf their ERA, and Haren fits that mold to a tee. A return to the Nationals could make sense given his strong finish and the fact that the city no longer feels so unfamiliar. The Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays and Phillies could all use rotation help, though their hitter-friendly environments may not be a fit for a pitcher whose home run rate continues to climb. Earlier today it was reported that the Twins have reached out to Haren as well.

Expected Contract

Haren salvaged some of his free agent value with a solid second half upon his return from the disabled list, but he's still likely in for a pay cut on 2013's $13MM salary. Another one-year deal seems to be in the offing for he and agent Greg Landry of CAA Sports, and Haren's frank remarks about the unease he felt playing in an unfamiliar city could suggest that geography will play a larger role in his 2014 destination than it would in most free agents' decisions.

Haren has already banked $61MM in his career, so he could settle for less cash if it meant pitching on the West Coast. Ultimately, while he hasn't resembled his former ace self over the past two seasons, he's done enough to earn more than fellow former ace Roy Halladay. My expectation is that Haren will sign a one-year, $10MM contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.