The Yankees have an unmistakable, glaring need for a second pitcher they can count on in a big October start, created by the anticipated retirement of lefty hurler Andy Pettitte.
Talks of an upgrade had originally centered on the unrealistic target of Ubaldo Jimenez, but the answer to all of New York’s questions was already sitting in their lap less than a year ago.
In July of 2010, a high-quality arm from a team buried in the basement of their division was placed onto the trade market, leaving the Yankees in perfect position to transform a question mark into a strength.
At the 11th hour, however, Brian Cashman balked at the opportunity and New York was once again left in rotation limbo.
Most of the fan backlash surrounding the deadline in the tri-state area attacked Cashman for allowing Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nunez to hold up a deal for the ever-confident Cliff Lee, much like Knicks fans screaming at Timofey Mozgov holding up a Carmelo Anthony trade.
The true “one that got away” was Haren, a three-time All-Star with an equally jaw-dropping strikeout to walk ratio as Lee.
At two years younger and signed to what inevitably would be a much more rational contract—we all knew what Lee would demand in the offseason—Haren at one point appeared on his way to the Bronx.
The exact demands of the Diamondbacks were less clear than in the Lee discussions, but most of the chatter out of New York and Arizona felt that Ivan Nova and/or Joba Chamberlain could have gotten the deal done.
The ability to acquire one of the best No. 2 starters in all of baseball while keeping Jesus Montero and the Killer B’s (highly touted prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances) in their system was an opportunity that cannot be passed up.
Pairing CC Sabathia with a pitcher averaging 34 starts and nearly 222 innings per season would give the Yankees one of the best “innings eating” duos in Major League Baseball while also still possessing the top-tier prospects to make any deal that may come available down the road.
Though admittedly a very small sample size, Haren is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA, 8:1 strikeout to walk ratio and 1.15 WHIP in three career starts at Yankee Stadium, proving he could handle the No. 1 offense in baseball (at the time) in a historically difficult stadium to pitch in.
Haren is a more consistent and reliable pitcher than anyone on the 2011 trade market and could likely have been had for the price of a No. 4 starter (Nova) and a quality-yet-enigmatic reliever with a reduction in velocity following a 2008 shoulder issue (Joba).
Cashman can absolutely be defended for passing on Cliff Lee, as chopping up the farm system for a pitcher who would inevitably be hitting the open market two months later was a poor baseball move, regardless of whether or not they overestimated their standing with the Lee camp at the time.
Passing up on Dan Haren for a far less daunting package after missing out on Lee, however, is something I personally could not let slide by without complaint both at the time and in hindsight as we approach the July 31st deadline this season.
In 37 appearances since the trade, Haren has a 15-10 record, 2.97 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 246 innings pitched for the Angels. That would fit quite nicely in the Yankees rotation right about now, don’t you think?
The AL West’s offensive anemia certainly plays a role in this, but his 10.8 combined WAR in 2008 and 2009 placed him in the top five of all MLB pitchers heading into the 2010 season (yeah, I figured I would throw our sabermetricians a bone).
It remains to be seen whether or not Brian Cashman will be able to pull off a move for a significant upgrade in the rotation, but all comments out of New York make it clear that the odds are very low.
Even if Cashman did pull off a blockbuster for an arm like Ubaldo, he would be forced to send out two or three Top 30 MLB prospects for a far bigger risk than Haren could have given him a year ago for far less.
Hindsight may always be 20-20, but my optometrist can vouch for my vision this time last year on the topic.
Yankees Universe can only hope that this missed opportunity does not lead to a more desperate move down the road for a lesser arm, but one thing can be said for sure: they won’t be finding a Dan Haren in the next six days.