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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:

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:

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR
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:

Split BA OBP SLG K%
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.