Dan Haren Becomes Rare Underpaid Dodger

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is reporting the Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million deal that has a vesting 2015 option if Haren works at least 180 innings next season. Last month, when we did our crowdsourcing for Haren, Carson Cistulli presented the following Haren facts:

  • Haren has averaged 195 IP and 3.2 WAR in the past three seasons.
  • He has averaged 2.9 WAR per 180 IP in the past three seasons.
  • He recorded a 1.5 WAR in 169.2 IP in 2013.
  • He is entering his age-33 season.
  • He made $13 million in 2013, as part of a deal signed in the offseason.

Steamer projects Haren to reach the 180 inning benchmark this season, and projects him as a 3 WAR pitcher. Ten million dollars for a 3 WAR pitcher is something 30 major clubs should be interested in, but one team beat all the others to the punch.

The Hot Stove thus far has given us five starting pitcher signings in Haren, Tim Hudson, Josh JohnsonTim Lincecum and Jason Vargas. The table below shows how those pitchers compare to one another in the past three seasons:

Haren 94 584.2 20.1% 4.2% 3.96 3.68 3.62 9.4
Hudson 82 525.1 16.4% 6.5% 3.55 3.54 3.71 7.2
Johnson 56 333.0 21.5% 8.1% 4.00 3.56 3.62 5.7
Lincecum 98 600.2 23.5% 9.8% 4.03 3.67 3.57 6.1
Vargas 89 568.1 16.0% 6.7% 4.04 4.32 4.41 4.6

Haren’s numbers are arguably the best of of the bunch nearly across the board, yet Haren’s 2014 salary is only the second-highest of the group. The attractiveness of Haren’s deal is further highlighted by the fact a more-tarnished Josh Johnson is set to make just $2 million less, and the option attached to his contract expresses less confidence than the one attached to Haren’s deal.

Despite the back and shoulder issues that have flared up the past two seasons, Haren has still made at least 30 starts in nine consecutive seasons. Both of the issues Haren has had that sent him to the disabled list occurred near the end of June. This past season, Haren admitted to scrapping the splitter before going to the disabled list and tweaking it with the help of teammate Ryan Mattheus after noticing that the pre-DL velocities on his fastball, cutter and splitter offered little disparity in terms of velocity. He came back from the disabled list throwing a hard splitter, as well as a slow splitter, and once again posted a solid second half on his way to a new deal:

2012 Pre-DL 0.297 0.333 0.484 19.1%
2012 Post-DL 0.243 0.282 0.432 18.8%
2013 Pre-DL 0.306 0.340 0.548 18.3%
2013 Post-DL 0.228 0.271 0.355 23.9%

It’s our nature to look at any free-agent signing and find its downside or look for its worst-case scenario. In terms of this deal, the worst thing that can happen — besides an injury, of course — is that Haren repeats his recent cycle of struggles, failing to live up to his peripheral numbers yet again. Some pitchers just consistently manage to underperform on a regular basis, and maybe Haren is now one of those pitchers. But we certainly don’t know he is yet, and if he’s not, the Dodgers are potentially getting a two year steal in a way not too dissimilar from how the Pirates landed Francisco Liriano last year.

This signing should quiet the David Price trade rumors and allow the organization to hold onto prospects such as Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Julio Urias — names that were floated in late October.

As if the comfortable pitching environment and great weather weren’t good enough, Haren now finds himself in a rotation with the likes of Zack GreinkeClayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Even at $10 million, this deal has excellent potential to be a win-win for both Haren and the Dodgers.

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37 Responses to “Dan Haren Becomes Rare Underpaid Dodger”

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  1. jruby says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    So what you’re saying is the Dodgers should get him on the DL early, so his awesome post-DL split can take up almost the whole 2014 season?

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  2. Jeffrey Loria says:

    Haren’s total 2012-2013 WAR: 3.3. I think he’s got a rebound in him, but I wouldn’t call him a 3 WAR pitcher.

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    • BobbyS says:

      “Haren has averaged 195 IP and 3.2 WAR in the past three seasons.”

      Right, it should definitely be noted that nearly 2/3 of that WAR was from 2011, nor are his IP aren’t headed in the right direction.

      That said, I like the signing, but it’s about fair for his recent performance and possible upside this season.

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    • Will says:

      Agreed. 2014 Dan Haren is a shadow of 2011 Dan Haren, and quite frankly given his injuries, I’m not sure how his 2011 stats should have any bearing on his future projections.

      In 2012, he was worth 1.8 WAR
      In 2013, he was worth 1.5 WAR

      $10m is not an underpay for that type of production.

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      • Baltar says:

        You are correct, and at age 33 only the last 2 years should be used to evaluate him.

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        • James says:

          “at age 33 only the last 2 years should be used to evaluate him” seems as arbitrary and self-serving as using 3 years as a cutoff… Sometimes guys are good, get hurt, get healthy, and then good again (e.g., Chris Carpenter).

          Taking the risk is a matter of opinion/preference and financial freedom – there isn’t a correct/incorrect answer without the benefit of hindsight.

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    • Chummy Z says:

      While using a the most recent 3 years tends to be the norm for analysis, this is not appropriate here, and what Dave did is a blatant attempt at fudging the numbers by using averages to present Haren in a much more favorable light than he should be. Instead of throwing in one of his past big years to make his recent average look better, let’s call Haren what he really is–a 1.6-7 WAR, 4.00+ FIP pitcher over the past two years who now has big HR problems (13% HR/FB, 1.4+ HR/9), gives up slightly more FBs (~40% now compared to an avg of ~37% in his career), and has a fastball velocity loss of 1 mph that has lasted for 2 years now.

      This is not a good pitcher. $10 million isn’t much for the Dodgers, but I actually consider this a slight overpay.

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  3. FeslenR says:

    Love how $10M is “underpaid”……baseball Monopoly money is gross :)

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    • Stop buying tickets, merchandise, watching it on tv, going to mlb.com, and talking about it on social media if you don’t like it. If you think baseball salaries are gross, look at executive pay.

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      • B N says:

        Indeed. Moreover, I’m much more convinced that we get our money’s worth on the field in baseball.

        Can you find me a pitcher playing on a farm team somewhere who would outperform Sabathia? So the guy gets paid $20m. His results back it up. I’m quite confident that he is much better than basically every pitcher making $10m, even.

        On the converse, is anyone convinced that the last couple of Sony CEOs are doing better than Joe Blow CEO available for 1/10 the price? “Overpriced veterans” and “prospects” are not unique to baseball. Maybe there should be a site “CSuiteGraphs” that analyzes the expected VORE (Value Over Replacement Executive) to evaluate this…

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      • Bip says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        And I’d much rather the players – the ones who work their asses off to be the best in the world at something, and the ones who the fans care about – get that money than the owners, managers, real estate developers, investors, etc.

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  4. jdbolick says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    I wonder how this and the Yankees spending big on McCann affects the posts for Masahiro Tanaka.

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  5. Pirates Hurdles says:

    This analysis seems to miss the fact that his fastball has lost velocity since 2011. There is a big difference between 90-91 and 88-89 from a RH who likes to challenge hitters. Unless he gets his fastball back he is much more likely to be a 1.5-2.0 win pitcher than ever seeing the 6 WAR heights of 2011. I don’t mind the signing at all and Chavez Ravine will help with his HR issues, but I don’t think they are going to get vintage Haren.

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  6. Jason Collette says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    A 3 WAR Haren isn’t vintage Haren. The velocity bounced back toward 2011 last season as well. Haren mentioned in his interview in early July he needed more separation on his pitches and the month by month velo readings on the previous link shows he made that adjustment with his splitter. That way, he didn’t have three pitches all coming in with just 4-5 mph of separation.

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    • cass says:

      He’s talked about overthrowing and getting too obsessed with adding velocity at the expense of making good pitches as well.

      I don’t think he’s worth the risk for a contending team, but as someone who follows the Nats, I suppose I might be a bit biased having just witnessed his last season.

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      • DBrim says:

        The Dodgers are still in the market for Tanaka. If they get him, that makes their #5 starter a mixture of Haren, Beckett, Billingsly (in the second half).

        In the minors, they also have Zach Lee, a prospect with a #2-3 starter ceiling that is almost ready for the big leagues. Stephen Fife has had limited success in the majors (although shoulder health is a question mark, and potential regression), and Matt Magill can make a spot start or two.

        Given that depth, they can afford to take a risk with a number five starter. And they didn’t have to give up a draft pick, or sign Ricky Nolasco for four years.

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      • Bip says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        I think he is worth the risk for the Dodgers. The Dodgers have arguably the best 1-2-3 in baseball. They’re probably going to be in on Tanaka. They have Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett returning from injury, and their best pitching prospect, Zach Lee, projects to be ready in mid-2014. Haren would be considered no higher than a #4, and if he performs to his ceiling, he gives the Dodgers another option for their playoff rotation.

        I think he isn’t worth the risk for a contender who badly needs rotation help, but he’s a good risk for one with a good rotation already.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      We must be looking at different velocity charts because I see no bounce back on any of his fastballs in 2013. Maybe a small uptick in his last three starts to his early season numbers, but that was still well below 90mph.

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  7. Shankbone says:

    Underpaid is right. Kershaw ??MM, Greinke 26MM, Beckett 17MM (Boston pays 1.25MM), Billingsley 12MM and Ryu 4.33MM. By the time Kershaw gets around to doing whatever he does, the Dodgers rotation will be more moneys than the Wilpons entire team.

    Seems like Haren has gone from a 220 IP horse to a guy who gets hit at a fair clip and misses a few games with back issues. Still, he made 30 starts in both of the last 2 years, that’s pretty impressive while battling injury. These last 2 years split is interesting, how can you avoid the Bad Haren? Home run prevention?

    Seems like a good signing, 1 year deals are easy to eat. Which is a Coletti specialty these days!

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    • pdowdy says:

      I think Haren signing in the NL West is a good way for him to try to avoid some home runs. Even with the fences moved in Petco is still a pitcher’s park, A&T Bank is most definitely a pitchers park, Chavez Ravine sways towards pitchers as well. That means his home starts which should be about 15 or so plus a handful of his others will all be in pitchers parks this year. I think it also helps that Haren will be back on the West Coast in a more comfortable envirnoment and near his family.

      I am a Nationals fan and it was hard to watch him pitch a lot of the time last year because he was getting hammered but he was always incredibly accountable and genuine about his issues and it was good to see him turn it around in the 2nd half. I’m glad he isn’t a National anymore but I hope he has a good season. It is hard not to like the guy.

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      • Dave S says:

        I guess…. except that Nationals Park played tougher than Dodgers Stadium for HRs last year.

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      • Dodger Stadium has been a much more slanted pitchers park than AT&T, and not that long ago, all the park factors for AT&T were near neutral and for a long period of time too. It has been very odd time series of park factors the AT&T, moving from pitchers to neutral and now back to pitcher’s again. It must have something to do with having good enough pitchers who can take advantage of the park.

        Just look at all the Japanese pitchers signed by LA, they were aces in LA, but when away, they weren’t that good (until Kuroda continued to do well with NYY), which you could have predicted by looking at their road stats.

        And while there will be more pitchers park overall, I would note that Colorado and Arizona are two hitter’s havens, though if they align the rotation just right, he could avoid them on occasion.

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        • Bip says:
          FanGraphs Supporting Member

          All the Japanese pitchers except Kuroda? How many of them have there been? 20? Enough to make it a meaningful sample? I don’t think so.

          The Dodgers pitching staff allowed a .293 wOBA at home and a .299 on the road. What indication is there that DS is much more pitcher friendly than AT&T that somehow deceives the park factor rating (which rates AT&T as ever so slightly more pitcher-friendly than DS)?

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    • Paul Wilson says:

      Especially valuable next offseason if the Dodgers can extend the Qualifying Offer…

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  8. Anon says:

    The story I read noted that Haren may have given a home-town discount to pitch close to home. HIs best years were with Oakland, Arizona and the Angels. Of course that doesn’t explain 2012, his last year with the Angels.

    Just an FYI

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  9. Nats3256 says:

    After watching 162 Nationals games…about 27 or 8 involing HAren…I shake my head at the headline.

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  10. Treaty of Zoilo Versalles says:

    As much as I’d like to see Haren succeed (saw him the first time pitching in the MWL for Peoria) he just looks like a classic case of pitcher-in-dramatic-decline. Reduced velocity, fewer starts and innings per start. I’m afraid we’re witnessing the career death throes for Dan.

    Ten million is nothing to the Dodgers these days so I doubt they’ll really regret the signing, but if Haren manages 2 WAR this year I’d be very surprised. Heck, by bWAR he’s been replacement level or worse each of the past two years. Despite the oddly optimistic Steamer forecast, this feels to me a bit like last year’s Berkman signing.

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  11. Iron says:

    “Steamer projects Haren to reach the 180 inning benchmark this season, and projects him as a 3 WAR pitcher.”

    Just looking at his fangraphs page, Haren is projected by Steamer to 2.2 WAR and 173 innings. Rounding issue or update issue?

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