The Dodgers haven’t announced it yet, and they never do before the player has passed a physical — in fact, their habit in recent years has been that they won’t even confirm it on the sly until the player has passed a physical — but Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who is never, ever wrong about these things, has reported on Twitter that the club has signed free-agent right-hander and three-time All-Star Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million contract, with a club option for 2015 vests if he hits 180 innings, something Haren hasn’t done since 2011 when he threw a staggering (by today’s standards) 238 1/3. That base salary actually represents a $3 million pay cut for Haren, who pitched last year for Washington on a one-year, $13 million deal. In fact, it’ll be his lowest salary since 2010, the year he split between the Diamondbacks and Angels, when he made $8.25 million.
OK, those are the apparent facts of the matter. Now for what it all means.
First of all, Haren is a local guy, of course, having graduated from Bishop Amat High School and later pitched at Pepperdine. So if his role is to replace Ricky Nolasco in the starting rotation, he at least fills the designated-hometown-guy part of Nolasco’s shoes. On the other hand, Haren isn’t exactly a mindblowing sign by the Dodgers at this point because, while he is a three-time All-Star, the last of those three was in 2009. In the four years since, he is a middling 50-49 with a 3.94 ERA. And according to this blog post by our friend Chad Moriyama, Haren’s velocity has dropped slightly from two years ago (should we start comparing him to Jason Schmidt? Nahhh, not yet).
Consider this, though, as we contemplate Haren in Nolasco’s rotation spot: remember how horribly Nolasco faded down the stretch? Well, Haren did the opposite. Yes, he is coming off arguably his worst season since his rookie half-season with the Cardinals in 2003 — he went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA for the disappointing Nationals, and he gave up the second-most home runs (28) in the National League, although there were a whole bunch of American League guys who gave up more than that. But Haren’s first-half/second-half splits were remarkable. Before the All-Star break, he was 4-10 with a 5.61, and hitters batted a ghastly .299 against him — but he also did a DL stint just before the break with shoulder inflammation, something that could have explained away his bad performance. Thereafter, it was 6-4 with a 3.52. And, he doesn’t walk many batters, just 1.6 per nine innings.
Actually, instead of the All-Star break, let’s adjust the sample-size split just a few days backward and go with Haren’s pre-DL numbers and his post-DL numbers, and the difference is even more striking: a 6.15 ERA, a 1.439 WHIP and 19 of the 28 homers BEFORE he went on the DL; a 3.29 ERA, a 1.049 WHIP and nine HRs after he came off it.
As for his overall health, the good news is Haren has been on the DL just twice in 11 major league seasons. The bad news is those DL stints came in the past two seasons.
All that notwithstanding, this is a good sign for the Dodgers. Haren, even at 33 and with his best years apparently behind him, still is a solid guy to stick into the fourth spot behind three really, really good guys in the first, second and third spots in reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. And if Josh Beckett is back by the start of the season and is even close to what he once was, that’s a pretty enviable starting rotation.