Mailbag: Haren, Dickerson, Rangers, Trout

Six questions and five answers today, so we’ve got a good mailbag this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box to send us questions throughout the week.

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Vinny and many others ask: If the Angels are serious about not picking up Dan Haren’s option, should the Yankees be all over that?

Earlier this week there was a report indicating that the Angels plan to decline Haren’s (and Ervin Santana’s) club option for next season and instead pursue a monster extension with Zach Greinke. Haren, 32, is nearing the end of his worst full season as a big leaguer, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 starts and 170.2 innings. He’ll fail to make 33 starts or crack 210 innings for the first time since 2004, when he was with the Cardinals. Blame the lower back stiffness that led to his first career DL stint.

Based on Twitter these last few days, fans of every single team want their club to pursue Haren if the Angels do indeed decline his $15.5M option. Haren is from Southern California and has made it no secret that he prefers playing on the West Coast, so right away the Yankees are at a disadvantage. It’s also worth noting that his strikeout rate is in the middle of a three-year decline, and his fastball velocity has been heading in the wrong direction for years now. That second link is particularly scary. The back issue scares me as well, especially if the Halos do cut him loose. It’s the whole “what do they know that we don’t?” thing. Haren has been a great pitcher for a long time, and that alone makes him worth looking into. There are a number of red flags however, so any team interested in signing him will have to really do their homework.

Travis asks: Is it safe to assume that if we only carry three starters on the post season roster, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will have a role on the team out of the bullpen? I’m also assuming the three starters go to CC, Hirok!, and Dandy Andy.

The new playoff system and schedule really discourages the use of three-man rotations, since everyone would have to pitch on three days’ rest after Games One, Two, and Three to get away with it. CC Sabathia can do that (assuming the Yankees actually get into the postseason), but I’m not sure Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte could. I expect the Yankees to use four starters throughout the postseason, and right now the number four guy is clearly Hughes. Nova pitched himself out of the job these last two months or so.

Now does that mean Nova would automatically go to the bullpen? I don’t think that’s a given. Assuming the Yankees only carry eleven pitchers into the postseason (they could get away with ten, but I doubt it happens), four will be the starters and four other spots are accounted for: Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. That leaves three spots, one of which I assume will go to Clay Rapada. The candidates for the final two spots would be Nova, David Phelps, Cody Eppley, and I guess Derek Lowe (veteran presents!). Phelps seems like a given in this situation, then you’ve got your pick of the other three. I guess that decisions comes down to who throws the best the rest of the way, but frankly I would rather see the Yankees carry an extra position player in that situation, especially if Mark Teixeira‘s calf remains an issue.

Steve asks: Are the Yankees more likely to go with a iffy Brett Gardner or Chris Dickerson on the playoff roster? Can they fit both?

Ben asks: Don’t you think Chris Dickerson needs to figure into the Yankees big league plans in 2013? At least as a 4th outfielder? This guy is a great fielder and base runner and had a useful bat. Much rather have him over another Andruw Jones-type. What say you?

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. If the Yankees do make the playoffs and use an 11-man pitching staff, they’ll have room for an extra bench player. That spot tends to go to a speedy pinch-runner type (think Freddy Guzman in 2009), a job for which both Gardner and Dickerson are qualified. Gardner is the better player, but he also is physically unable to hit right now. I have a hard time thinking the Yankees will carry someone on the postseason roster that can’t even swing the bat in case of an emergency. Maybe that changes and Brett is cleared to take his hacks at some point in the next six days, but that doesn’t seem likely based on everything we heard for the last four months.

As for next year, Dickerson’s situation depends largely on what happens with Nick Swisher. If they let him walk, then the outfield need will be greater and they should hold onto him. If they bring Swisher back, having a left-handed outfielder on the bench doesn’t make a ton of sense. I’m probably the biggest Chris Dickerson fan you’ll find, but he is just a platoon player at the plate. More of a high-end fourth outfielder than an everyday corner guy on a contender. As much as I would like him to see him stick with the club going forward, Dickerson isn’t a great fit for the roster right now.

Shaun asks: Hey Mike, do you know who would have home field if the Yankees and Rangers tied for the best record? Thanks.

The Yankees are currently two games back of Texas for the best record in the AL, and New York would get the nod as the top team in the circuit if they tie because they won the season series 4-3. They won’t play a tiebreaker game or anything like that, that only happens when the division title or a playoff spot in general is on the line. So yeah, the only thing the Yankees would have to do to secure home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS would be to finish with the same record as the Rangers, nothing more.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Steven asks: Mike, not sure if you’re aware, but Mike Trout is good at baseball. I was wondering, hypothetically speaking of course, if the Angels were to make him available, what sort of haul would he bring? Do you see his value getting any higher than it is right now? And, finally, what sort of package would the Yankees have to piece together to get these hypothetical talks started?

I don’t think any player in baseball has as much trade value as Trout. You’re talking about a just-turned-21 kid who has already shown he can play at a superstar level. He hits homers, steals bases, hits for average, gets on-base, and plays great defense at a premium position. Plus he remains under the team control for five more seasons, the next two at the league minimum. It’s impossible to top that, and I don’t think he could possibly increase his trade stock unless he agrees to like, a ten-year contract worth $25M or something ridiculous.

There’s no way for the Yankees to acquire Trout even if he was available. What do you start the package with, four years of CC Sabathia and one year of Robinson Cano while offering to pick up the bulk of the money? I wouldn’t take that for Trout. Offer me Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and a guaranteed to be healthy Michael Pineda and I still would say no if I were the Angels. If the Giants come calling and put both Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on the table, then yeah that catches my attention. The Yankees don’t have anything to get a trade done, I just don’t see how it would be possible. I don’t think Trout can replicate this season (or even improve on it) year after year, but he’s going to be great for a long-time. At his age and with that much cost-control remaining, he’s the single most valuable asset in the game.

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Snakebitten

(Schilling photo by The AP; Johnson photo by Harry How/Allsport; IPK photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty; Haren photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty)

In the aftermath of the Arizona Diamondbacks non-tendering Joe Saunders — the mediocre left-handed pitcher who was the only Major Leaguer in the package sent by the Angels to the Snakes for Dan Haren in July 2010 — last month, it occurred to me that despite the fact that the franchise has only been in existence for 14 seasons, there’s a strong possibility that the Diamondbacks have been the greatest off-the-field thorn in the Yankees’ side of any team in Major League Baseball in recent history*.

* Though it’s not as if they’ve been pleasant to deal with between the lines either, given that they were responsible for perhaps the most heartbreaking loss an entire generation of Yankee fans have ever experienced in the form of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard stories detailing a mutual dislike on the part of former Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo and George Steinbrenner, both known for their hard-nosed ownership styles, and as best I can tell the problem initially stemmed from a now-famous meal shared by Steinbrenner and David Wells in January 2002, in which the Boss re-signed Wells four days after the burly lefty reached a handshake agreement with the D-Backs.

This incident no doubt left Colangelo steaming, and it would come back to bite the Yankees in the 2003-2004 offseason, as the team desperately needed to upgrade a rotation that was losing three-fifths of its members. The Yankees were very interested in Curt Schilling, but the talks didn’t go anywhere as Arizona’s asking price — which appeared to include both Nick Johnson (coming off a 2.1 fWAR season) and Alfonso Soriano (5.0 fWAR), at the very least — was rightly deemed excessive. It’s unclear who Cash may have been willing to part with, and whether talks ever progressed between the two teams, but before they even had a chance to Theo Epstein and Boston swooped in, joined the Schillings at their Thanksgiving table, and somehow convinced the Diamondbacks to trade Schilling, coming off thee seasons in which he racked up 7.6, 9.7 and 5.9 fWAR, respectively, for a package headlined by Casey Fossum and rounded out by Brandon Lyon and minor leaguers Jorge De La Rosa and Michael Goss.

In a vacuum I suppose that’s a fair amount of talent for Boston to have surrendered, but in hindsight it turned out to be an absolute steal for the Red Sox, as Fossum was basically never an effective pitcher again following the deal; Lyon’s carved out a career as a pretty good middle reliever, the most fungible asset in all of baseball; De La Rosa’s been a #3-ish starter at best in the National League and Goss never made it to the Majors; while Schilling accumulated 17.8 fWAR in four seasons with the Sox while helping lead the franchise to its first World Championship in 86 years and another three seasons later.

While you could drive yourself crazy playing the what-if game, it’s probably fairly safe to say things would’ve unfolded quite a bit differently had the Yankees acquired Schilling that offseason instead of the Red Sox.

Of course, the Yankees finally did get a Diamondback ace of their own the following offseason, in Steinbrenner’s long-coveted Randy Johnson. The Big Unit had a strong debut season in pinstripes in 2005, but was pretty mediocre in 2006, and famously flubbed both of his postseason appearances. Fortunately the Yankees likely didn’t regret the cost to acquire Johnson — Javier Vazquez, coming off an execrable first season in pinstripes, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro — especially considering that prior to the deal being executed Robinson Cano had been a long-rumored chip in a potential Johnson trade, but in hindsight I think this can still be considered another low point in the Yankees’ and Diamondbacks’ mutual history.

Following his disappointing 2006, the Yanks decided they’d had enough of Johnson — who, as it so happens, expressed a desire to return to Phoenix — and shipped him back to the Diamondbacks for nothing special in Alberto Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Ross Ohlendorf and Luis Vizcaino. I suppose receiving four warm bodies for a pitcher who appeared to be well past his glory days is somewhat commendable, though Johnson still went on to put up two more decent (if injury-plagued) years out in the desert, while the 2007 and 2008 Yankee pitching staffs weren’t exactly anything to write home about.

The Yankees and Diamondbacks hooked up again in December of 2009, in the three-way trade that brought Curtis Granderson to New York and shipped Ian Kennedy to Arizona, a deal that also saw Detroit send Edwin Jackson to the D-Backs but also gain Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from the Yankees and heist Max Scherzer from the Snakes. Two years later this would appear to be the rare three-way trade in which all involved parties appeared to benefit. I’d do this deal all day every day, although it somehow figures that Arizona would wind up turning Ian Kennedy — who I maintain would never have become a 5.0 fWAR player in the Bronx — into a frontline starter.

This brings us back to the Saunders-Haren trade of July 2010. Granted, the Angels also sent Tyler Skaggs — currently ranked by Baseball Americas as Arizona’s 3rd-best prospect — Patrick Corbin (10th in the system) and Rafael Rodriguez to the desert in the deal, so it’s not quite as cut-and-dry as just “Saunders-for-Haren,” but given that Saunders wasn’t even retained by the D-Backs a mere year-and-a-half after being acquired, while Dan Haren has been a top 10 pitcher in baseball the last two seasons, it’s difficult not to wonder how things might have played out had the Yankees and Diamondbacks managed to consummate a deal.

It’s difficult to say given that all we really know is that Joba Chamberlain‘s name was the primary one bandied about during the trade talks of July 2010. If we were to try to build a comparable package to the one Arizona received, the Yankees’ #3 prospect at the time (per our own Mike Axisa) was Manny Banuelos, while #10 was Jose Ramirez. At the time, would you have been willing to trade a package of Joba Chamberlain, Manny Banuelos, Jose Ramirez and some low-level filler for a 29-year-old Dan Haren? Pretty sure I’d have been willing to pull the trigger on that one.

Again, we have no idea whether something like that was ever offered and/or whether it would have been an acceptable haul for Arizona, but on paper it seems like a pretty fair swap, especially when you consider that Saunders has been worth 2.7 fWAR in two full seasons of starting while Joba has been worth 1.8 fWAR in a season-and-a-half of relieving during that same time period. You have to figure Arizona almost certainly would’ve given Joba the chance to start that the Yankees never will, and the Yankees would’ve had a right-handed ace to complement CC Sabathia.

Of course, at the end of the day the majority of this is hearsay and conjecture, and there’s no way of really knowing whether Arizona has had it in for the Yankees over the years. However, as I’ve illustrated above, the two teams’ transaction history — and it certain cases, lack thereof — would make me considerably wary of doing business with Arizona in the future.

Angels acquire Dan Haren

Well, so much for that idea. The Angels have acquired Dan Haren from Arizona for Joe Saunders, prospects Patrick Corbin (ranked 12th in the Halos’ system by Baseball America), Rafael Rodriguez (22nd), and a player to be named later. The PTBNL is not Mike Trout, arguably the best prospect in the game, but instead a list of players the D-Backs can choose from. I have to say, I find it very hard to believe that Joe freakin’ Saunders headlined a package for Haren, but so be it.

GM Brian Cashman can now focus on his stated goals of improving the bullpen and bench, though another starting pitcher never hurts.

Dan Haren and the three bears

Dan Haren. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By now you’ve been inundated with rumor after rumor and discussion after discussion on how much value the Yankees would give up to receive D-Backs pitcher Dan Haren. The Yankees have said that they’re not willing to give up Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Z-Mac, Banuelos and eating salary. No, I have no new news to report. With other teams balking and Arizona hemorrhaging cash, it makes sense for the Yankees to wait it out and see the asking price drop. So what would you give up to get Haren? Remember, we’re talking the most you’d put toward the center of the table.

There are very good reasons to pursue Haren –he’s a borderline ace/great #2 with a very attractive below-market contract, which would give the team a great second starter, keep Hughes’ inning limit in check, and really hedge their other rotation concerns. No need to rush Andy, and it also limits some lingering concerns about AJ Burnett.

On the other side, Haren really isn’t a need, that’s still around $30 million they’d be adding to payroll, at present it would be a heavy prospect loss, and the addition may adversely impact the pursuit of Cliff Lee.

Before I get to my own personal high offer, let’s first knock down a few points.

Selling Low?

People continue to say the Yankees would be “selling low” on Joba to trade him off when he’s pitching so poorly. Yet, I don’t see it that way. Clearly, his value is high for the Diamondbacks. Their bullpen is remarkably inept. Maybe they overvalue the impact of closers. Whatever the case, if his value now is high enough to be the main piece that gets a top 20 pitcher in baseball (while giving up what appear to be 2 back-end rotation guys, a promising mature lefty in Banuelos), isn’t that enough for Yankee fans? What could Joba get you if you ‘sold high’ on him? He’s going to hit arbitration soon, and for this team he’s been a very mixed bag. Dan Haren is probably the ceiling on what Joba could get you if his value is much higher. And Dan Haren on a team-friendly deal is not a bad thing at all.

Beyond that, as Artisteve at TYU points out, it doesn’t appear the Yankees have much faith in Joba as a starter going forward. From their perspective that’s not unreasonable (though I think they’ve botched the handling along the way, though Joba certainly should be as responsible for his performances; hard to gauge). If you think Dan Haren would be overall more valuable for the team over the next three years than Nova, Joba, Z-Mac, and Banuelos would be, you certainly pull the trigger.

However, there is more to that. I saw a great comment yesterday, one that Moshe Mandel of TYU pointed out. steve (different one) notes that contrary to the belief of some, it’s not that one player holds up the deal, but rather, adding that one additional piece that tips the scales in the wrong direction. Maybe losing Joba isn’t a big deal. Maybe even adding the salary of Haren and giving up Nova is something they’d be willing to do. But an additional piece, an asset they clearly value, like Banuelos or Z-Mac is just too much for them. That asset would be there to offset some kind of other loss, and thus, would be too steep a price for what the team may consider just a luxury. At the same token, you can’t just offer up Nova, Z-Mac and Ramiro Pena and expect them to jump. That porridge is too cold.

The Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all

On the financial side, it preliminarily looks like it could work. Financially, the team should have close to $80 million coming off payroll next year. Of course, with Jeter and Mariano, you’re probably looking at $30 million next season in contracts. So we’re down to $50. And even with Haren, you’d still be looking at another pitcher at over $11 million, so we’re down to $24-25 million. (Drop even further if that pitcher next year is Cliff Lee.)

Heard this: It could be Andy's last year. Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

With the bullpen needing some improvement and the DH situation looking cloudy, in addition to arbitration to Hughes, salary jumps to Teix, Granderson, and Swisher, we’re probably down to around $18 million. Of course, this is all highly dependent on a myriad of factors, but let’s be clear — there is a very good chance that Haren and Lee for around $32 million is a realistic possibility next year. It’s basically Andy, Javy and Kei Igawa being replaced by those two.

But I want it now!

On a personal level, I’d be a bit disappointed if the Yankees didn’t get Haren, even if it’s Joba, Nova, Z-Mac and (gulp) Banuelos. That’s right, push comes to shove, it’s five minutes before the trade deadline, I include Banuelos, Nova, Z-Mac and Joba, while taking on Chris Snyder (I’ll explain in a bit) and the salary of Haren (which is a completely reasonable salary considering his performance). Of course, there’s no reason to bet against oneself, so I suspect the price tag will drop, but I could live with that offer.

Banuelos, to me, is the hardest part of that. While there’s certainly value in back-end starters like Nova and Z-Mac, I don’t have a terrible amount of faith in them, and they have far more value as trade pieces to the Yankees than they do as actual players. Joba, if not given the opportunity and right amount of leash to be a top-flight starter, holds below-average value to the Yankees. I like Joba as a talent, but he may not suit the needs and philosophy of the organization, at least not this year, probably not next year either. Banuelos is a tantilizing talent. A lefty with great poise and very good stuff, he could be a star some day. But he might not be. He’s under 20-years-old and in A-ball. It would be a damn shame to lose him, but there are still a few levels for him to jump and he’s still a “prospect”. Tough to swallow, but if that’s what helps get an established #1.5 starter, I’m willing.

Chris Snyder is an overpaid pseudo-backup catcher, but a fairly good player. He has 15 HR pop, good on-base skills, and is defensively a pretty good catcher. The team could legitimately pair him with Jorge Posada for the rest of the season, who’s missed quite a bit of time to a host of nagging injuries over the past few years. Boom, there’s your DH, even if Jorge does whine about it. If nothing else, limiting the playing time of Francisco Cervelli is a big benefit to the lineup. (Sorry, Blue Eyes.)

D-backs catcher Chris Snyder. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

With Snyder being under contract only through 2011 (albeit with a moderate-sized buyout in 2012), Montero could work as a rotating DH with Jorge. Montero, under this scenario, would be splitting time at catcher with Snyder. Snyder’s gone in 2012, where it seems a good bet Romine would be ready, at least in some capacity. Either way, Snyder (for $5.5 million) may be a little expensive, but a short contract that fills a need and allows a good deal of lineup versatility. Considering the other catchers are either some-glove, no-bat or all-bat, no-glove, I think that’s reasonable, though if they could pay half of that cost, it would be gravy. Hell, trade them Cervelli if they eat some of Snyder’s salary.

Dan Haren would of course slot behind CC and Hughes would return to the bullpen for the remainder of the season. I’ve been extremely pleased with Phil’s performance on a whole this year, but he’s near his innings limit and has had some trouble finishing off batters over the course of the season. With Joba gone, the latter part of the bullpen would appear in much better shape.

Moving to next year, it’s not unreasonable to think a 1-5 of CC, Lee, Haren, Hughes, AJ is possible. Haren may or may not knock Lee’s price down this off-season, and if nothing else, provides some sort of contingency plan if CC decides to opt-out and takes the Yankees on an expensive joyride. Don’t underestimate the closing of the Yankees’ window. Jeter, Mariano, Posada, A-Rod may not have many more very good seasons left. Adding two of the top pitchers for the next few years could do a tremendous amount to strike while they still can.

So having rambled for 1200 words, I ask what, if anything, your max offer for Dan Haren would be? Remember, it needs to be a bit painful. (Unless it’s Betemit and Jeff Marquez for Swisher, of course.)

For more of my incessant chatter, check out Mystique and Aura (though I’ve been busy at work lately and you won’t find much current information to check out. But whatevs, if you’re there, look at Steve’s stuff. He’s a less-neglectful parent).

Dan Haren Rumors: Asking price vs. selling price

As Saturday evening arrives, Dan Haren remains a member of the Diamondbacks, but Arizona’s asking price and the Yanks’ thinking are coming into view. As Frankie Piliere reported earlier today, the D-backs want Joba and “perhaps a guy like [Manny] Banueloes” while the Yankees would prefer to deal Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova or Zach McAllister. Piliere says he can “see this going down to the wire.” The wire is, of course, 4 p.m. next Saturday.

While Sergio Mitre‘s start underscored the Yanks’ need for some pitching depth, the Yanks are under no pressure to make this trade earlier in the week than necessary. The two sides are clearly negotiated, and each knows what the other wants. Now, it’s up to the general managers to make the best trade possible without giving up too much. The rest of us will just have to play the waiting game.