Starting pitcher Dan Haren ended weeks of speculation of where he would pitch in 2013 by signing a one-year, $13 million contract with the Washington Nationals today, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The Red Sox had been rumored to be interested in the right-hander but ultimately decided to pass, which, given the available information, was a proper decision.
ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox chose not to be aggressive in their pursuit of Haren because of concerns over his health and what they were willing to pay. One of Edes’ sources said that “It was a simple case of money,” when asked why Boston allowed Haren to go to Washington.
Haren has been one of the better pitchers in baseball during his career, posting a 119-97 record with a 3.66 ERA, and exceeding 200 innings pitched in seven of the past eight years. However, the Red Sox were likely swayed by a litany of concerns that cooled their interest in the free agent.
Haren saw his reputation as a workhorse take a hit in 2012. Because of injuries, his 176.2 total innings represented his lowest total since 2004, when he had just 14 major league appearances and just five starts.
A bad back landed Haren on the disabled list for several weeks this past summer, contributing to his drop in innings. Although he came back to finish the season, the Red Sox had serious doubts about his health moving forward, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.
Red Sox didn't like what they saw on Dan Haren's medicals on his hip.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) December 4, 2012
Haren will pitch as a 32-year-old next season. His advancing age, combined with a dip in velocity were other red flags for the Red Sox. FanGraphs.com show that Haren’s average 2012 fastball velocity was 88.5 MPH; the lowest mark of his career since they started tracking such numbers in 2007. It also represented a drop of nearly 1.5 MPH from 2011.
Edes indicated that a Red Sox source felt the team was concerned there wouldn't be enough of a difference in velocity between Haren’s fastball and his off-speed pitches to allow him to be as effective as he has been in the past. Pitchers past their thirtieth birthday with a fading fastball and bad back are not typically thought of as a great investment.
FanGraphs.com also showed that Haren’s 2012 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.00 was his worst mark in that category since he became a full-time starter in the major leagues. They consider such a number to be merely average, making it worth wondering if it is the start of a downward trend in his effectiveness.
Some might not agree with the Red Sox deciding to pass on signing Haren. However, with so many viable concerns, they made a smart choice by deciding to go in a different direction. Although he may prove them wrong, the risk he represented wasn't worth taking that chance.
Statistics via BaseballReference