July 25, 2010
The Diamondbacks have dealt right-hander Dan Haren(notes) to the Angels in exchange for … well, for a not-so-impressive return. (Unless you get excited about cost savings; Haren is due approximately $30 million through 2012). Arizona receives Joe Saunders(notes), minor league pitchers Patrick Corbin and Rafael Rodriguez(notes), and a player to be named later. The PTBNL is expected to be a serious prospect, but reportedly not outfielder-of-interest Mike Trout.
Saunders, as most of you know, is the worst type of starting pitcher for fantasy purposes. He gives you lots of innings (on pace for 194), ratios that don't usually help (currently 4.62 and 1.49), and very few strikeouts (5.1 career K/9). In standard leagues, he wasn't helpful while in Los Angeles, and you shouldn't expect magic in the National League. Of the two named prospects headed to Arizona, the 21-year-old Corbin is more interesting. He's left-hander who's posted a 3.87 ERA and a 13-3 record across two levels this year (now at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga). He's also fanned 106 batters in 118.2 innings while issuing just 28 walks. Not bad at all, but Corbin won't enter the fantasy conversation anytime soon. Rodriguez is a 25-year-old Triple-A reliever with 10 saves, a 1.09 WHIP, and an uninteresting strikeout-rate (30 Ks in 50.1 IP).
Early speculation on the PTBNL is focused on Tyler Skaggs, who can't be officially traded yet because he signed with the Angels less than a year ago. He's a 19-year-old lefty with a 3.61 ERA and 82 Ks in 82.1 innings in the Midwest League. Again: Nice, but years away from making an impact.
This seems like the appropriate time to remind you that in December of '07, Arizona dealt Brett Anderson(notes), Carlos Gonzalez(notes), Dana Eveland(notes), Greg Smith(notes), Aaron Cunningham(notes) and Chris Carter for Haren and Connor Robertson(notes). Good God. There should be an un-do button.
Generally speaking, we hate to see any pitcher move from the N.L. to the DH-league, so that would seem to be a problem for Haren. He's been successful in A.L. West before, however, thriving in Oakland from 2005 to 2007. It's also worth noting that the Angels' rest-of-season schedule offers a few friendly series: two vs. OAK, two vs. SEA, two vs. CLE, two vs. BAL, one vs. KC.
There's a lot of bad luck in Haren's disappointing 2010 pitching ratios, as his batted ball rates are in line with prior years, yet his BABIP is .350. No one can argue with 141 strikeouts in 141.0 innings. And he's escaping the Diamondbacks' miserable bullpen, so that clearly helps.
The biggest worry with Haren, as always, is the second-half decline. Over the course of his career he's been a fantastic pre-break pitcher and a surprisingly ordinary starter from July through October. Check the splits. His first-half ERA is 3.29 and his WHIP is 1.10; after the break, those ratios jump to 4.27 and 1.32. The pattern has held in each of the past four seasons, too. The first 120 innings are always better than the final 100. It's a clear concern — bigger than ballpark, bigger than league.
Nonetheless, we shouldn't need to tell A.L.-only owners what to do here, especially if you have a need for Ks and wins. This is a max-bid situation. There are no guarantees that a better pitching option will switch leagues. If you're an N.L.-only manager, this is obviously a brutal deal. You get nothin'. Saunders is hardly sufficient compensation for anyone who owned Haren. In the imaginary game, we don't root for payroll relief.
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