(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
Eyewitnesses can sometimes be the most unreliable. And, in the era of social media, the least trustworthy sources for trades are often the players involved. Such was the case last night, when Carlos Marmol tipped off a reporter in his native Dominican Republic that he had been traded to the Angels for Dan Haren. However, the Cubs eventually backed away from the deal, and the Angels wound up buying out the final year of Haren’s contract instead.
Why did the Cubs walk away from the swap? If they went so far as to inquire if Marmol would waive his no trade clause, there must have been some interest. The trade would have allowed Chicago to swap their erratic closer, whose hold on that job is tenuous at best, for a starting pitcher, one who may not only be poised for a bounce back season, but could also benefit from being traded to the NL Central. What’s more, if Haren did rebound, he would have made a much more attractive trading chip at the deadline next season.
Perhaps the approximately $6 million difference between both players’ contracts was enough to scare the Cubs away? Or, maybe team President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer were simultaneously working on a related deal to immediately flip the starter, but it fell through? Whatever the reason, the Cubs’ late withdrawal left Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto with a tough decision: either pick up Haren’s $15.5 million option or buy him out for $3.5 million. With Los Angeles likely to make a big play to retain free agent Zach Greinke, Dipoto opted for the latter.
As of midnight, Dan Haren became a free agent, essentially rejected by two teams. Now, it’s up to the rest of baseball to determine his value. Undoubtedly, Haren will be pitching somewhere next season, but chances are he will have to take a pillow contract, a one-year deal that allows him to rebuild his value before hitting the free agent market the following season. On such terms, Haren should have plenty of suitors.
Could Haren wind up in the Bronx? Last year, the Yankees had great success with one-year contracts for veteran starters, so a similar deal for Haren has to be enticing. Although Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are both expected to return, the Yankees’ rotation, which was a relative strength in 2012, could still use some depth. Considering the advanced age of Pettitte and Kuroda, a lightened workload for CC Sabathia, and uncertain status of Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, Haren would fit perfectly into the Yankees’ 2013 rotation.
An added benefit for the Yankees is that by having three-fifths of their rotation on one-year deals, the team would still have flexibility to make a big acquisition, either during the upcoming season or following winter. The short-term structure would also leave resources to address the offense without running afoul of the franchise’s desire to dip below the luxury tax threshold in 2014. Also, if Haren pitches well, the team could then make him a qualifying contract offer for 2014 and reap the draft pick compensation should he opt for a long-term deal. Without many other attractive options on the free agent market (aside from Greinke and a couple of intriguing pitchers from Japan), the Angels decision to let Haren go free could prove to be a boon for the Yankees, provided, of course, their evaluators believe his struggles and back woes in 2012 are reversible.
Although Haren would look nice in pinstripes, is the Bronx the best landing spot for him? On the one hand, if the righty can make it there, he would prove to potential suitors next winter that he can make it anywhere. Then again, rebuilding value in the A.L. East isn’t an easy task. Ultimately, Haren’s decision will come down to his priorities. If the California-born pitcher wants to stay out West, he should have no shortage of options. If he wants to stack the deck in his favor, there are a few teams in pitching friendly divisions/ballparks that will probably make an offer. A return to the Oakland Athletics, or even a stint with the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers seem ideal for both purposes. However, if Haren is drawn to the pinstripes, and the challenges of pitching in a pennant race, the Bronx might be the ideal landing spot.
Two years ago, many Yankee fans regarded Haren, who was dealt to the Angels in July 2010, as the one who got away. When the Diamondbacks dealt the right hander, it seemed like a trade any number of teams could have and should have made, a conclusion fortified by his flirtation with the Cy Young in 2011. Now, after a rough 2012 for Haren, the Yankees, and every other team, will get a second chance.