Dodgers finalize one-year deal with Haren
Three-time All-Star right-hander, formerly with Angels, returns to West Coast
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers confirmed the signing of free-agent right-hander Dan Haren to a one-year contract on Monday, but general manager Ned Colletti said that doesn't close the door on acquiring another starting pitcher.
Haren, 33, is viewed as a short-term, cost-efficient replacement to free agent Ricky Nolasco (who is seeking a five-year deal) in the back of a rotation that already boasts defending National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, former American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Josh Beckett is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, and Chad Billingsley should be ready around May after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. All are former All-Stars except Ryu, who just completed his first Major League season after seven consecutive All-Star seasons in Korea.
But with Kershaw one year from free agency, David Price on the trade block and Japan's Masahiro Tanaka possibly available soon, Colletti said the signing of Haren doesn't mean the Dodgers are necessarily done adding starting pitchers.
"If something comes our way, we'll take a look at it," said Colletti. "We like the four we have, but we won't close the door. We hope to get Josh and Chad back, but right now we don't have them. Remember, last year we came out of Spring Training with eight and we needed a ninth three weeks in."
Haren said he wasn't thinking about competing for a starting job.
"They brought me in to pitch and be one of their five starters," Haren said. "I'm not worried about who is coming back and when they're coming back. I'm going to take the job and run with it."
Haren lives in the same Orange County development as hitting coach Mark McGwire, played at Malibu's Pepperdine University and was willing to take a short-term deal to play near home. He picked the brain of former Angels teammate Greinke about playing for the Dodgers, learning all about Greinke's Silver Slugger Award prowess and fantasy football trades in the process.
"Greinke said the team has amazing talent second to none, stars at every position, a great atmosphere at the stadium," Haren said.
Colletti praised Haren's track record, consistency and makeup. He signed Haren for $10 million in 2014 with $3 million in incentives and a '15 option that vests if he pitches 180 innings. Haren said the escalating salaries for pitchers (which he called "ridiculous") were fueled by Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35 million contract, and Haren's market heated up as soon as Tim Hudson signed.
Haren said he might have been able to get a second year guaranteed elsewhere, "but the Dodgers are a good fit for me. At this point in my career, the priority is winning now. Money aside, this worked out for me."
However, Haren does come with some flaws. In 2013, he was 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA with the Nationals, signing as a free agent after going 12-13 and posting a 4.33 ERA with the Angels in '12.
He was 4-9 with a 6.10 ERA in late June this year when he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Haren lost his first two decisions after returning, running his losing streak to eight, but won his next four decisions and six of the last nine. His second-half ERA was 3.52, but of his 30 starts in 2013, only one was as long as eight innings and six were shorter than five innings.
Haren blamed his first-half problems on pitch execution, not the shoulder, saying he gave up too many home runs. His second-half improvement resulted from focusing on keeping pitches down and in the park.
"I found my groove again," he said.
He said he felt as good physically at season's end as he did all year and had no problem with back and hip issues that plagued him in 2012.
In 2011, Haren was 16-10 with a 3.17 ERA for the Angels. He came to Anaheim in the July 2010 trade with Arizona that included Patrick Corbin, now perhaps the D-backs' top starter.
The signing of Haren also preserves the flexibility of opening a rotation spot for an internal prospect like Zack Lee or Ross Stripling in coming years, another stated goal of a franchise determined to rebuild its player development system and not rely on free agents. Consider Atlanta, where Dodgers president Stan Kasten enjoyed his greatest success, as the model, especially when it comes to a loaded starting rotation.
Haren was an All-Star from 2007-09, when he was an innings-eating strike thrower. His best season in Arizona was '09, when he went 14-10 with a 3.14 ERA and an NL-leading 1.00 WHIP. He's never won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award, but he handles the bat and fields his position in the same athletic manner as Kershaw and Greinke.
Haren came to the D-backs in a December 2007 trade from Oakland that included All-Star Carlos Gonzalez. Three years earlier, he was traded to Oakland by St. Louis in a deal that included Mark Mulder. Haren was a second-round Draft pick by the Cardinals in '01.