Wow. Just when we thought it was a bat the Angels were in search of, they pulled off a blockbuster and acquired Arizona ace Dan Haren. The details of the trade are not completely clear, but SP Joe Saunders and multiple minor league players will become Diamondbacks (rumored to be left-handed pitchers Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and righty Rafael Rodriguez).
If you ask any Angels fan, Joe Saunders isn’t really much to write home about. After posting 17 wins amidst a dominant 2008, Saunders has struggled badly the last 2 years. The lefty was 6-10 on the year, with a 4.62 ERA and horrendous 1.49 WHIP. He was making 3.7 million dollars in 2010 as well. Giving up his dead weighted salary was a coup for GM Tony Reagins, considering the nearly 28 million owed to Haren in 2011 and ’12.
This is the second time the Angels have jumped at the chance to acquire a struggling elite starter in 11 months. Haren has a whopping 4.60 ERA on the season and talent evaluators suggest that his stuff is not what it has been in the past. However, this trade is a far better risk than the one undertaken with the acquisition of the disastrous Scott Kazmir.
There were several red flags on Kazmir when the Angels rolled the dice on him. His production was steadily declining, as was his stuff. His slight build was also a major concern. He never was an innings-eater and constantly seemed to battle injuries. In fact, he managed to clear waivers after the trade deadline in 2009 because no one was excited about claiming his contract. When the Halos got him, it came out of nowhere.
This is hardly the case with Haren. He was also sought by the Yankees, Tigers, and Twins. Despite his 2010 swoon, there is little reason to expect a drastic decline from the 29 year old. He is an absolute innings-eater with a frame that talent evaluators dream about at 6’5 and 215 pounds. He threw a whopping 445 innings combined in the last two years and is actually on pace to throw another 220 innings this year. His strikeouts have not declined one bit; he has thrown 141 K’s in 141 IP. Furthermore, he pitches for a non-contender. For a competitive guy like Haren, it is plausible that the team’s struggles have affected his performance.
This acquisition takes me back to the off-season. I insisted that the Angels made a brilliant and emotion-less move by letting veteran ace John Lackey walk in free agency. Sure, they were losing their best and most reliable starter. But the price tag was simply exorbitant. Lackey was a somewhat declining pitcher who wanted to be paid like a top 10 pitcher in the majors. He ended up getting 5 years and nearly 85 million dollars in total. Meanwhile, the Angels had a plethora of live, young arms in Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and potentially Scott Kazmir. It was prudent for them to sit back and see where the young guys would take them. If they needed to acquire an arm during the season, the money saved on Lackey could be spent.
Well, Kazmir was and is a disaster. You gotta think a move to the bullpen is inevitable (where he could actually be useful). However, the other two stepped up and produced at a level consummate to their talent. And the Angels got their arm seemingly without giving up much in return to Arizona besides middling talent and financial relief.
Here’s a comparison of John Lackey and Dan Haren:
Dan Haren (29 years old): ’08-’09 – 445 IP, 437-78 K:BB ratio, 30-18 (W-L), 3.17 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 33 mil owed for ’10-’12 combined, 15.5 mil club option for ’13.
John Lackey (31 years old): ’08-’09, 339.2 IP, 269-87 K:BB ratio, 23-13 (W-L), 3.81 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 85 mil owed from ’10-’14.
In other words, there is no comparison.