Luis Gonazlez’s RBI single that fell just to the edge of the outfield where Derek Jeter could have caught it had the infield not been in seems like just yesterday to Yankee fans. To the Diamondbacks, though, that moment of glory is long gone. This year’s team, currently 37-59, miles away from first place, is en route to a second consecutive last place finish, and with the trade deadline near, Arizona is holding a very attractive piece in pitcher Dan Haren.
To the uninitiated, Haren might not seem like much. His 7-8 record with a 4.60 ERA is nothing to write about, but those numbers, as they so often don’t, can’t capture the full story. Outside of Roy Oswalt, Haren is the best pitcher still available at the deadline this year. In 141 innings, he has struck out 141 hitters, best in the NL, and he’s walking just under two per nine innings pitched. The home runs have been his bugaboo this year, but even while surrendering 23 longballs, his FIP is still a nifty 3.84 and his xFIP 3.39.
And so, inevitably, many teams are interested in Dan Haren, and Buster Olney just happened to hear this: The Yankees are one of them. Even though Andy Pettitte will probably be out only for a few weeks, targeting Haren makes perfect sense. The right-hander would be a fit for any contender, and the Yankees know that pitching is what will separate the AL champion from the rest of the very competitive pack. The club also realizes that Phil Hughes is facing an innings limit. Haren would give them a plus arm as the innings mount.
Haren, though, will not come cheap. He’s signed through 2012 with a $15.5 million club option for 2013, and he’s set to make only $12.75 million in both 2011 and 2012. In a market where A.J. Burnett and John Lackey can both make upwards of $82 million for five years, Haren’s deal is a downright steal. The Yankees know that; the Diamondbacks know that; any team kicking the tires on Haren knows that.
Once upon a time, Arizona had let it be known that they wanted two Major League pitchers in exchange for Haren, and potential partners let it be know that the D-backs were off their collective rockers. Now, though, the price has come down, but the team still wants an A-plus package. “Ideally what we would ask for is major-league ready pitching, be it starters and/or bullpen, and prospects,” club CEO Derrick Hall said yesterday. “The volume doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be four or five or six guys. It’s really about the quality.”
The Yankees match up, and as Jayson Stark said yesterday, the club is quietly letting other teams know they want to make some deals. Currently, says Stark (second item), the Yankees are “actively talking” with Arizona. If the deal “just involves prospects, they appear poised to jump into those talks aggressively.” In fantasyland, the Yankees could try to offer a Hector Noesi, a Romulo Sanchez or an Ivan Nova for Haren, but the realistic trade proposal probably starts with Joba Chamberlain.
Despite nearing arbitration, Joba is still cost-controlled, young and a viable Major League pitcher. He could be a starter; he could be a bullpen guy; he could be both. Depending on the prospects — and it always depends upon the prospects — the Yanks should be willing in a heartbeat to flip Joba in a Haren trade. Maybe that too has an element of fantasy in it, but it’s a fair starting point for both sides.
Any trade for Haren would have a cascade effect on the Yanks’ plans and would probably shift their off-season targets from another pitcher to a bat. With Haren on board, Cliff Lee wouldn’t be as imperative of a pick-up for the club, and it’s debatable if the Yanks would have room for him in their budget. If Andy Pettitte were to return for 2011, a decision that many beat writers have said seems to be an inevitable, the rotation would effectively be full. But I’m getting ahead of the situation a bit.
Today, at least four teams, including the Tigers, Phillies and Cardinals, are very interested in Haren. If the Yankees are serious, they have the pieces to get the deal done, and with the trade deadline eight days away, the speculation will wrong strong until then. Buckle up; it’s time for that wild ride that is late July.