A Case Against Acquiring Dan Haren


Enough has been made now of the recent Bob Dutton article quoting Royals owner David Glass saying he will – and the team intends to – spend money this coming offseason to improve the team. Since there’s been an overabundance of wish-list-making from fans throwing names around of pitchers as if that’s the obvious cure to the losing ills that still plague this regime.

Some of the names talked about most often are the obvious, Zack Greinke and Edwin Jackson, the uninspired, Paul Maholm, and now the darkhorse of the group: Dan Haren.

Just as the Royals plan for next season and their budget concerns, the Angels too have made noise sending signals that two of their current starters, Ervin Santana and Haren, may become casualties of payroll in order for them to keep this season’s Trade Deadline acquisition, Greinke. Because there seems to be a slimmer of hope upon wishes that Haren, one of the more consistent and productive pitchers over the last 6-8 seasons, might be available, that’s where Royals fans have planted their flag of who they want most to lead the starting rotation next year.

I’m not one of them.

I’ve said before I’m not entirely sure spending this offseason is the clear route to go in order to improve the 2013 Royals for a run at the AL Central crown. Mostly because there’s a worry that whomever the Royals would sign wouldn’t necessarily be a clearly recognizable upgrade over what is currently on the roster.  Sure most any player, especially pitchers, would be better than either Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar, but if we’re talking in terms of pure impact, spending bulk sums of money is what this team needs to do.

I’ve long since held the belief that in order to win championships you need stars, difference makers, (and why the Royals absolutely did not win the Greinke trade) and the type of No.3 and No.4 starters the Royals would be in the market for wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

That concern, at least on the surface, would go away if the team were able to acquire Haren one way or another. At least on the surface.

A model of consistency throughout his career. Haren posted seven straight seasons of 200 innings pitched or more, and a SO/9 of at least 6.8. That’s pretty damn good.

However this season Haren has battled lingering issues in the one area of the body you would least like to hear your team’s favorite pitcher be dealing with (after the throwing arm, of course), his lower back.

At 32 years old Haren is no longer the sure bet to accumulate the innings or produce at the same level he’s done for so many years. Couple his age with an injury that could only figure to linger, and that’s worrisome for an organization that is already strapped for cash and has depth as an issue.

The back issues are even more of a red flag for Haren because (and this is strictly my belief) his mechanics have never been the easiest on the stress points of the pitching delivery. His pause at the top of his leg kick could aid and lead into any kind of lumbar or hip strain.

When a pitcher’s sequencing is thrown off even just a little bit, it causes other areas of the motion to fix or overcompensate to eliminate the inefficiencies caused. Haren’s pause, while it may or may not have been the cause, or may or may not have ever been an issue before, still leaves a slight crack in the kinetic chain, allowing injuries to occur. Whether it’s hip, back, or arm injuries, any unnecessary stoppage in the natural body movements can be the root cause.

So there’s a worry with Haren: age plus injury. Granted he’s better now than anyone currently in the Royals rotation, and possibly at 80% of full strength he is as well. But as the Royals currently stand, and the money it would almost certainly take to sign a pitcher like Haren with his career production, the Royals can’t afford to have him at 80%, or even worse, miss time altogether.

That isn’t to say that acquiring Haren (again, if he is even available) is a hard “no”, it’s just not necessarily the absolute “yes” fans seem to think it is.