Pros and Cons: Should A's target Dan Haren?

Melvin talks Bartolo Colon, targeting veterans and A's budget

Pros and Cons: Should A's target Dan Haren?
November 15, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Dan Haren is coming off a one-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals. (USATSI)

Dan Haren went 43-34 with a 3.64 ERA in three seasons with the A's. (USATSI)

Logic suggests the Oakland A’s will be somewhat quiet this offseason.

Don’t let logic fool you.

The A’s always find a way to make waves during Hot Stove season. Even as they return most of their key pieces from a second straight division-championship team, they have a free-agent shopping list just like every other major league team.

We’ll break down the plusses and minuses of signing some of their realistic targets on the open market. The players we spotlight have either been linked to the A’s already, or they represent a potential match based on Oakland’s needs looking ahead to 2014.

The A’s, of course, often make their biggest additions via trades. But general manager Billy Beane said the payroll could increase over last year’s season-ending $71.1 million figure, so he’ll have the resources to go after some quality players.

The first we’ll examine is a familiar face in Oakland. Right-hander Dan Haren started the 2007 All-Star Game in an A’s uniform, but the following winter he was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade that kickstarted a major rebuilding cycle for the A’s. Since then he’s also pitched for the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Nationals, and he’s once again a free agent.

Here are the pros and cons of fitting Haren in Green and Gold again:

At 33, the guy still knows how to command the strike zone. The A’s value starters who can locate their fastball over guys who simply blow up the radar gun. So as they search for a veteran to bolster the rotation, Haren is a guy surely worth considering. He walked just 4.3 percent of the batters he faced in 2013, a figure which trailed only Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo among free agent starters.

The A’s are attempting to re-sign Colon, but if they can’t land him, Haren would be a suitable replacement in that he’s a strike thrower, a pitcher who will keep his defense engaged and on its toes because he won’t be walking guys. Ask any Oakland position player, and that was something they loved about Colon.

Check the stats, because Haren’s numbers are trending the wrong way. He holds a 3.74 career ERA over 11 seasons, but after posting a 3.17 mark for the Angels in 2011, his ERA swelled to 4.33 the following year and 4.67 last season after he signed a one-year $13 million deal with the Nationals. Haren is known as a workhorse, and he topped the 200-inning mark seven straight years from 2005-11. But he’s thrown just 176 2/3 and 169 2/3 innings, respectively, over the last two seasons.

[RELATED: Dan Haren career stats]

Haren isn’t striking out hitters at the rate he was earlier in his career either, so if he puts runners on base, it’s going to be tougher to wiggle his way out of jams.

A Southern California native, Haren has indicated he’d like to return to the West Coast after his one-year stint with Washington. Can you imagine a better comfort zone for him than Oakland? Haren would be reunited with pitching coach Curt Young, who he worked with during his previous three seasons with the A’s (2005-07) when he became one of the AL’s top starters. Virtually the entire roster has changed since Haren was here, but the front office and clubhouse staff remains the same.

Don’t underestimate the familiarity and comfort factor, and how it impacts a player’s performance. If Haren is going to bounce back, it seems the A’s offer a great opportunity.

Haren shared in a story last season that he struggled being on the East Coast, so far away from his family in California. That suggests that, possibly, a return to a West Coast team could rejuvenate him. But at age 33, it’s very possible that we’re simply seeing a pitcher on the downhill side of his career. He’s still likely to command a high salary on a one-year contract. Is it worth the financial commitment?

Haren told last season that retirement crossed his mind during the year. It’s worth asking how much he has left in the tank.

Haren is a fly-ball pitcher, and what better place for him to make half his starts than the Coliseum, where so many fly balls go to die? He is familiar with the A’s ballpark. He knows how to use it to his advantage. Hang a pitch at an inopportune time, and it may not cost you.

At the same time, Haren’s home run numbers can’t be denied. In half his starts, he won’t have the luxury of pitching at the Coliseum. Even during his first stint with Oakland, Haren served up a lot of homers -- the 31 he allowed in 2006 is tied for his career high. He’s allowed 28 in each of the past two seasons. With the reality that the A’s could be duking it out with Texas once again for the AL West next season, making multiple starts in the launching pad of Rangers Ballpark could be a bad thing for Haren.

The A’s current crop of starting candidates includes Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone. Anderson, of course, has proven injury-prone and could be traded. And even if he returns, the A’s can use a proven veteran to add stability, and Colon may sign elsewhere for bigger money. Haren is a known quantity to the A’s. Taking a run at him makes sense.

The Giants and Yankees are among the teams that have been linked to Haren, and it figures that others are showing interest given his long track record. Even though his overall numbers have slipped the past two years, he could still be in line for a one-year contract in the $8-10 million range. That’s no small change for the A’s, and if it takes a two-year deal to land him, there’s reason for pause. But there is something about Haren and Oakland that feels right, so a reunion wouldn’t come as a surprise.


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