When it comes to spenders, the San Diego Padres don’t fall into that category. They rely on smart draft picks and extremely wise spending to compete. On the contrary, they haven’t been doing much competing in recent years, except for 2010 when they collapsed.
But a wise buy would be Dan Haren. There are risks involved, sure, but he is far from a tier one free agent. While he wouldn’t make a massive impact, he would help push the Padres closer to a wild card spot in the coming years.
Why Acquiring Haren Makes Sense For San Diego
The Padres posses a very young and inexperienced rotation that boasts plenty of raw talent. Barring any signings, the oldest pitcher in San Diego’s projected rotation entering 2013 will be Clayton Richard, whose just 28 years-old. Granted, the Padres are stacked with young pitchers because the majority of them are homegrown, but a veteran presence such as Haren’s could do no harm.
Haren, 32, has pitched in seven postseason games to add to his impressive portfolio. The veteran’s presence won’t do much in terms of winning and losing games, but he could pass down little tricks and tips that he has learned over his career. We’re talking about intangibles here.
Being from California, Haren would remain in his hometown state, which would extend an ironic trend of playing for teams in California, excluding five years where he pitched for the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. Otherwise, he’s a California guy.
In 2006 and 2007, he pitched with the A’s, and for the past three seasons he has pitched for the Angels. Both cities are obviously in California in case you forgot your geography, so it’s clear that Haren would prefer to stay close to home. Therefore, San Diego would fall straight into those personal preferences. Perhaps Haren would even lighten up his contract demands if it came between playing close to home or on the East coast.
Additionally, the Padres could provide Haren with a less critical fan base. If he were to join force with a powerhouse team on the East coast, he would have to perform instantly or he would probably be traded away.
While it’s unfair to say that Padres’ fans and media are not critical at all, Haren would have the benefit of easing into his role without being harshly scrutinized for potential hiccups. Simply, his bad outings would fly under the radar. Although, the Padres would surely like a more upbeat fan base, because if that were to happen it would likely mean that the team was headed in a winning direction.
What Haren Would Bring to the Table
Over his ten year career, Haren has built his reputation as a durable pitcher. That is, until last year where he only logged 176.2 innings due to a back injury that might have an impact in potential negotiations. According to Marc Normadin of SB Nation, Haren’s back could be more of an issue than expected. Yet, Haren’s agency stated (Via the Providence Journal) that his client is “totally healthy.” Though the fact that his back is creating discussion, raises some red flags, anyway.
For reference, look at the Cubs, who backed out of a trade for the veteran and failed to provide a reason to support their thinking. In hindsight, their reasoning can be inferred—medical issues. It just seems like Haren and his agent are holding an important insight back which could possibly prevent him from drawing any interest. But for now, let’s put his back on the back burner.
Haren struggled mightily in 2012, to say the least. He compiled a 4.33 earned run average and 4.24 FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage) over 30 wobbly starts. For comparison, both marks check in as career-lows by a decent margin. The jump in both categories attests to his inflated WHIP of 1.29, and home runs occurring with runners on base. That my friends, is called playing with fire. And the fire scorched Haren.
Furthermore, the right-hander surrendered a career-high 1.4 home runs per nine innings. Specifically, 16 of his 28 allowed home runs came at home, which comes across as a bit of a conundrum, considering that Angel Stadium of Anaheim has the reputation to favor the pitchers.
Per ESPN Park Factors, it is the sixth worst home run park for hitters in baseball. The handful of parks even least favorable go by the names of AT&T Park, Petco Park, Marlins Park, Safeco Field, and PNC Park. Although, home runs weren’t the only concern at home, as opposing hitters against ultimately totaled batter stats across the board against Haren in his own backyard. Maybe, just maybe, Petco Park would fit his approach better.
According to Fox Sports, the Padres will move in their fences quite substantially before the 2013 season begins. The main focus in the maneuvering will be both the right and left field gaps. Apprently, both gaps will be moved from roughly 402 feet to the 380 range. Additionally, the higher mounted wall in right field will be trimmed down to refine the overall appearance of the stadium.
Despite the scheduled cutbacks, Petco Park is still a tad more pitcher friendly than Angels Stadium. Add in the brisk air during the evenings, and pitchers gain an even larger advantage. A bigger diamond such as Petco Park’s, could suit Haren better off given his declining fastball. And don’t expect his fastball to suddenly find new life, as he’s not getting any younger.
If Haren’s problematic back doesn’t hinder him too much, he is still a very productive asset at 32 years-old. He has been an all-star three times, and has finished top-ten in Cy Young voting twice, most recently in 2011. But it is hard to ignore his potential long-term setbacks, as a lingering back problem doesn’t favor pitchers all that well. At this point, his back will determine how effective he can be with any team, not just the Padres.
How Would Acquiring Haren Affect The Padres’ Payroll Situation?
Believe it or not, but the Padres have tons of flexibility with their current payroll situation. With roughly only $30 million committed to players in 2013, enrolling Haren wouldn’t be too dramatic. The Padres are known to play cheap, but with only three players under long-term contracts (Carlos Quentin, Huston Street, Cameron Maybin), they could steadily become mini-spenders if winning becomes a trend.
Haren wouldn’t break the bank, either. More than anything, he is looking to prove himself again, fresh off a rough 2012 campaign. Althoug, he has minmal time to be proving himself over again, as he seems to be on the wane. So, common sense says that a long-term deal isn’t in the cards, but a deal worth roughly three years in length seems feasible. As for the annual salary, the total certainly wouldn’t eclipse $15 million.
Acquiring Haren is perfect for San Diego because he’s slightly a risky addition which lowers his value, giving the Padres a chance to snatch him. In comparison, if he was a highly sought out commodity, the Padres wouldn’t stand a chance given their lack of financial resources.