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There’s no way to put it nicely: The Red Sox pitching needs help. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester both improved as the season went on and we saw a breakout year from Felix Doubront, but even with John Lackey penciled in as his 2010 self the rotation is still full of question marks. According to Nick Cafardo, the team is interested in Angels’ starter Dan Haren. It looks like Ben Cherington is actively trying to shore up a major weakness from the past season. Available on a one-year deal, potentially for a small price in trade, Haren may well be the best option for the Red Sox to acquire for 2013.
From 2005 to 2011, as a full-time member of the starting rotations in Oakland, Arizona, and Anaheim, Dan Haren was durable and at times, dominant. The right-hander averaged 226 innings per season with nearly 200 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.12. While his 3.49 ERA over that time is not eye-popping, it was good enough to net 101 wins in his 237 starts. Haren is known for his control: in parts of ten big league seasons he has a K:BB ratio of 4.01.
To put it another way, Haren has three balks and 77 wild pitches in the Majors. The Red Sox staff issued eleven balks and threw 42 wild pitches this season. Obviously, Franklin Morales is unlikely to have five balks called against him ever again, but the Red Sox starters had trouble getting out of their own way at times during the 2012 season.
For the Angels though, it comes down to money. Their spending spree on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last offseason is not going to be a yearly event. In addition, the team is still saddled with Vernon Wells (still owed $63 million over 3 years).
The Red Sox are usually among the leaders in team payroll every season and 2013 is likely to be no different. Because the team freed up so much payroll when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, one-year financial commitments that would normally be a burden of sorts even to a large market team become freebies. And why shouldn’t they? The Red Sox will not be lowering revenue expectations with a lower payroll. Taking on the full $15.5 million obligation for next year is merely spending money that the team can allocate as they choose on short-term deals while looking to the future for the impact pieces to sign long-term, like Will Middlebrooks or even Jacoby Ellsbury.
There is a caveat: Haren is coming off the worst season of his career. His ERA rose to 4.33, his WHIP and walk rate climbed, and he was plagued with back problems which limited him to 176 innings, the only time Haren failed to reach 200 innings while pitching a full season. But a potential number two starter for one season is tempting. If Haren isn’t healthy he’s only signed for one season.
If the Angels are not interested in keeping Haren around for next season, the cost in trade will be minimal, like the recently completed trade of Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals. The return in that case was minor league lefty Brandon Sisk. Sisk is 27-year-old pitcher who may help out in the bullpen. If multiple teams are bidding on Haren, the cost may be higher in terms of prospects, but don’t expect any of the Red Sox big names on the farm to head to LA.