Jason Hammel has arguably been the Cubs best pitcher so far and his hamstring injury has cast quite a cloud over an already weakened rotation. While Hammel is expected to make his next start after the All-Star break, there’s no telling if he will be recovered by then. If not, the front office is likely now forced to make a move to stay in the race for a wild card position. Dan Haren is a name that has been reported and the unique nature of his contract situation makes him more desirable than other rental pitchers. Let’s take a look at what that cost may be.
Despite a long 12-year career and three all-star appearances, Haren has been one of the more unheralded pitchers in all of baseball. He owns a career 148-127 record, 1957 strikeouts in 2337.1 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Back in 2012, Haren was rumored to be traded to the Cubs from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Carlos Marmol, but a lack of formal consent from Marmol ended the deal. So it’s no surprise that the Cubs would be interested in him again.
Reports have said that Haren’s velocity has been falling since then and his fastball tops out in the mid-80s range at this point. He’s probably relying on mostly guile and experience which makes his 6-5 record, 3.34 ERA and 1.05 WHIP all the more impressive. His FIP of 4.14 suggests a correction is likely coming, but that still makes a league average starter, something the Cubs certainly need. He is in the final year of his deal and has been pretty well traveled, with Miami being the seventh team he’s played on. Prior to the season starting, Haren expressed a preference to stay on the west coast to be closer to his family and even considered retirement when he was dealt to Miami. Chicago may be a little further west, but it’s something to keep in mind should he be dealt again.
The deal that sent him to Miami Marlins from the Los Angeles Dodgers was a multi-player one. In addition to Haren, the Marlins received 2B Dee Gordon, INF Miguel Rojas and the entirety of Haren’s remaining $10 million salary. The Dodgers received C Austin Barnes, RHP Chris Hatcher, LHP Andrew Heaney and INF/OF Enrique Hernandez. The headliner in this deal for the Marlins was Gordon whose All-Star campaign the season prior and team control through 2018 give them some cost certainty from a rising star. Haren gave their rotation a proven veteran preference and the Dodgers paying all of his salary likely made it worthwhile for them to pay a little more.
What they gave up was their top prospect in Andrew Heaney, who was considered by most a top 30 prospect in the game with the ceiling of a number two starter. Barnes was a top 20 prospect for the Marlins. Barnes hits well for a catcher, but also plays second base and third base and there’s some debate if he can stick at the position long term. Hatcher is a converted catcher to bullpen arm who adds depth to the Dodgers and posted a 3.38 ERA in 56 innings in 2014. Hernandez and Rojas were essentially even swaps as both are utility players, but Hernandez has a little better offensive ceiling. Overall, it appears that Gordon and Rojas may have been enough to earn Barnes, Hatcher and Hernandez and maybe a lesser prospect than Heaney, but the addition of Haren and his salary, made it a little easier for the Marlins to pay up with Heaney.
Recently, the Arizona Diamondbacks sent RHP Bronson Arroyo and RHP Touki Toussaint to the Atlanta Braves for INF Phil Gosselin. Arroyo is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will not be back until at least next month. The Braves assumed all financial responsibility of him for around $10 million. They also gained the 19-year old Toussaint, the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft and a top 120 prospect. The Diamondbacks were quoted as making the deal for cost savings on Arroyo and not having much faith or wanting to invest long term in a prospect that they just weren’t high enough on. Gosselin is nothing but a utility infielder, so basically Arizona dumped salary and Atlanta bought a prospect. So how does this relate to the Haren deal?
Should the Cubs pick up Haren, they are basically getting him for free since the Dodgers are paying his salary. So anywhere that Miami sends Haren, they are essentially buying whatever prospect they feel will make the most impact for their team.
The last trade to consider is the one the Boston Red Sox made when they sent 33-year old Jake Peavy and cash to the Giants for LHP Edwin Escobar and RHP Heath Hembree at the deadline last year. Peavy was owed the remainder of his $14.5 million salary and was not having as much success as Haren pitching to a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts, but the Giants gave up a fair amount from their system that was ranked in the lower third. Escobar was considered a top three prospect and among the top 75 in all of baseball in some lists. He earned a 5.11 ERA at the Triple-A level and has the ceiling of a middle rotation starter. Hembree was a top 12 prospect and posted a 3.89 ERA in the minors and thought to have closer potential.
Despite Haren’s diminished skills, his star power and lack of salary are going to net at least a top five prospect as they did in the deals that were profiled. Of course, the Cubs have one of the best systems, so their top five prospect is of more quality than one of the Giants or Diamondbacks. A top 6-10 or two top 20s with solid long-term potential is probably what it will take. Names like Jen-Ho Tseng, Eloy Jimenez, Jake Stinnett, Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach, Mark Zagunis, Jacob Hannemann and Christian Villanueva could be in play.
Acquiring Dan Haren without paying salary lowers the risk on an older player who may be pitching over his head. The determination on Haren really comes down to what value they place on contention this season. Does the front office think the team is ready to make the jump now and willing to give up one of their better prospects for a rental pitcher? Or do they think that prospect is more valuable and may look for a pitcher with a little more control to justify the cost? Stay tuned.
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Player Acquisition Cost Reports:
- RHP Tyler Clippard
- INF/OF Ben Zobrist
- RHP Jonathan Papelbon
- LHP Cole Hamels
- LHP Oliver Perez
- LHP Scott Kazmir
- RHP Sonny Gray
- LHP Steven Matz
- RHP Tom Koehler
- OF Gerardo Parra