6 MLB Teams That'll Fight over Dan Haren and/or Ervin Santana in Free Agency
The Los Angeles Angels are battling for a postseason berth in the American League, still two games behind the Oakland A's for the second and final playoff spot. The Halos have struggled through various spurts this season—including a 6-14 start—that put them in this position.
They can also look at the up-and-down seasons of two of their starting pitchers—Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
While both have thrown well of late—Haren with a 2.45 ERA in his last six starts, Santana a 2.49 ERA in his last seven—their seasons will clearly be looked at as disappointing.
Gonzalez was told by a club official that the team's preference is to sign Zack Greinke long term. To do that, Haren and Santana would become the sacrificial lambs.
Haren has a $15.5 million option with a $3.5 million buyout, Santana a $13 million option with a $1 million buyout.
If both options are declined, it would change the landscape of the free-agent market considerably.
Who are the teams that would be salivating over the thought off adding Haren and/or Santana?
Let's take a look.
1. Boston Red Sox
Thanks to general manager Ben Cherington's shrewd wheeling and dealing in August, the Boston Red Sox have considerable financial flexibility for the 2013 season and beyond.
By jettisoning the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox only have 45.6 million committed to payroll for next season.
Starting pitching has been simply awful for the Red Sox. Jon Lester is suffering through the worst year of his career, Clay Buchholz can look like a Cy Young candidate one minute and then like garbage the next and Felix Doubront is still a work in progress in his first full season.
The Sox have John Lackey returning from Tommy John surgery next season, plus they'll have youngsters Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, courtesy of their mega deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Still, the thought of upgrading the rotation is clearly on the minds of the Sox brass.
The addition of either Dan Haren or Ervin Santana would be intriguing. Haren is still a top-flight pitcher at the age of 32, and Santana has been a durable innings-eater who has won at least 16 games three times in his career.
Adding either Santana or Haren would allow the Red Sox to take their time with Webster, who has yet to pitch above the Double-A level.
2. San Diego Padres
When the San Diego Padres completed transfer of ownership from John Moores to a group headed by Ron Fowler, no doubt many local fans cheered the transaction.
Almost immediately, new owners gave GM Josh Byrnes the go-ahead to sign both Carlos Quentin and Huston Street to extensions. With a great group of young stars ready to emerge, the Padres need only a few pieces to help keep them moving forward.
Ownership will spend this winter. Will they spend like the big boys? No, but they'll surely spend more than Moores did in the previous five seasons.
If Dan Haren and/or Ervin Santana are made available this winter, Byrnes will absolutely explore the possibility of signing either of them. The Padres aren't that far away from contending—a couple of signings could put them back in the mix in the NL West.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays' pitching staff has been a major disappointment all season long, posting a 4.86 ERA, ranked 25th in the majors.
Ace Ricky Romero has been abysmal with a 5.91 ERA, Henderson Alvarez suffered through a sophomore slump with a 4.91 ERA, Brandon Morrow missed over two months with an oblique injury and Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek were both lost to season-ending injuries.
Injuries have no doubt plagued the Jays, but an upgrade for the pitching staff is clearly in order. With Dan Haren and Ervin Santana possibly becoming available, GM Alex Anthopoulos will no doubt take a look at both.
Anthopoulos has already stated that Romero and Morrow are the only starters locked in for next season, so he is clearly prioritizing the starting rotation as a need this winter.
4. Minnesota Twins
GM Terry Ryan will absolutely be targeting starters this offseason, as he's watched his rotation pitch to a 5.51 ERA this season (worst in the AL).
Only Scott Diamond (12-8, 3.64 ERA) has shown any kind of consistency for Minnesota. Although the Twins have never used free agency to make wholesale changes, that could change this winter.
Santana has given up a major league-leading 36 home runs this year, so the more spacious confines of Target Field will definitely help in that regard.
Haren would instantly become the staff ace in Minnesota. His last six starts is more indicative of the kind of pitcher he is, one with impeccable command and the ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone.
5. Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have already announced their intentions regarding starting pitcher Jake Peavy, opting not to pick up his option for the 2013 season.
There's a chance that Francisco Liriano won't be returning, either.
GM Kenny Williams could well be interested in looking at either Dan Haren or Ervin Santana as replacements in the Sox's rotation.
Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana will be back, and Williams has a decision to make regarding the club option for Gavin Floyd.
If Floyd's option is declined, Williams will have some wiggle room. Adding Haren to support lefties Sale, Danks and Quintana could be very intriguing indeed.
The Detroit Tigers have a solid core trio of pitchers at the top of their rotation in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister. Beyond that, inconsistency is the rule of thumb.
Anibal Sanchez threw a gem on Tuesday night, but they've been waiting for six weeks to see that kind of performance. Rick Porcello has given up more hits than anyone in the majors, and Drew Smyly hasn't quite been able to find his way, either.
The Tigers showed they were all in with their acquisition of Prince Fielder last winter. Owner Mike Ilitch wants a championship, and if he feels that adding Dan Haren or Ervin Santana can help him get there, he'll be more than happy to okay the transaction.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.