Nats Sign Dan Haren and Other News

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with Dan Haren for one year and $13M. Haren described his decision thusly:

“The deciding factor in coming to Washington was winning,” Haren said in an e-mail. “I don’t think there’s a team better positioned to win now. It really was an easy decision for me, actually. It didn’t take me long to decide that playing for the Nationals made sense.”

Well, yeah, and maybe the fact the Nationals offered about $5M more than anyone else played a tiny role as well. Just sayin’.

Good decision by the Nationals? Debatable. At $13M, Washington is paying for the Dan Haren of 2011, and/or, the Dan Haren prior to age 30. Removing financials from the equation, the Nats need Haren to replace Edwin Jackson in the starting rotation — a spot somewhere in the middle or toward the end. From the latter perspective, it’s a good signing, because even the “bad” Haren — the one who was basically a 5-inning pitcher with a 4.33 ERA — is good enough for a #4 or #5 starter supported by the Nats offense. Further, there is a slight chance that Haren rediscovers some of the awesomeness that made him one of the most coveted pitchers in baseball from 2005-2010. But when you look at the money handed to him — well, only a big-market club with deep pockets like the Nationals or Yankees can afford to take such a gamble.

Curious, if you were the Mets GM, would you have spent that much for one year of Haren?

Moving along, Shane Victorino signed a 3-year, $39M deal with the Red Sox — the identical commitment given to Mike Napoli a day earlier. Had you asked me two weeks ago if Victorino would get such a rich and lengthy deal, I would’ve said “no freakin’ way,” but after seeing what Angel Pagan received, well, that’s the going price for a centerfielder. Funny that many people (including myself) actually believed the Mets had a shot at signing a player of Victorino’s (or Pagan’s) ilk to take over CF and the leadoff spot. Just goes to show how distant the Mets are from competing at the Major League level, against Major League teams with Major League payrolls. Maybe the team in Flushing, rather than Buffalo, should be moving to the PCL.

I suppose the Victorino signing could motivate the Red Sox to trade an outfielder, but who knows? According to various “sources,” signing Napoli will not cause them to trade a catcher. Poker playing, more likely.

One more big signing took place: the Giants locked up Marco Scutaro for 3 years and $20M. Again, I’m not sure I would have believed it two weeks ago. The 37-year-old second baseman had a career half-year at just the right time, for just the right team. Good for him; it’s too much money but I’ve always loved watching him play — going back to those brief cups of coffee he had with the Mets in the early part of the millennium.

In a less-heralded move, the Diamondbacks signed Eric Hinske to a one-year deal. Ho-hum.

There were also a few trades in Opryland. The Miami Marlins flipped Yunel Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays in return for a minor league infielder named Derek Dietrich. Even before Escobar told the Marlins he wasn’t excited about moving from shortstop to third base (huh, like deja vu all over again), it seemed likely he’d be out of Miami before spring training. I know nothing about Dietrich, but his stats suggest he’s a slightly younger version of Josh Satin.

Finally, the Rockies traded young phenom Alex White and minor leaguer Alex Gillingham to Houston for reliever Wilton Lopez. This one makes me scratch my head, as White was an integral piece in the blockbuster that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland not so long ago. I suppose a 5.51 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in 23 MLB games were enough to dampen Colorado’s hopes for the 24-year-old righthander. Lopez is a top-notch setup man who can be used in a closer role, but he’ll turn 30 by the All-Star break, and lights-out relievers generally have a short shelf life. I suppose this means the Rockies are ramping up to win sooner rather than later.

Thoughts on any of these moves? Post them in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. derek December 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm
    i would not want pagan, victorino or scutaro for that money..that is high…

    as far as haren. i dont think you could argue since its only a yr. with tv money coming in and the nats primed to sell alot of tickets i repect the gamble.

    • MikeT December 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm
      Why are we using bad contracts to aging players as a litmus test to how competitive the Mets can be in the market? I don’t understand why it is so important to spend money if what you can get is crap. There are good investments out there, but these in question are decidedly not good investments. Moreover I’m not sure if the Red Sox should be considered the model of off season moves anymore. That team is a mess and I’m not sure they have a real plan.

      I would not want Haren at that price either, to answer your question.

  2. Rob December 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm
    I think that Joe’s point is that anything the Mets could prospectively sign is better than what they have. But if we’re having this discussion at this point in the season, it’s going to be a looooong winter.
    • Joe Janish December 6, 2012 at 12:55 am
      Exactly. Thank you.
  3. Mike Kelm December 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm
    Could the mets spend that much money for someone who is a shadow of their former self- we all know the answer to that quesiton is yes. Shoud the Mets sign Dan Haren for $13M- no.

    The reasoning behind this for me is that a) Haren isn’t that good of a player anymore. The Nats will use him as a #4-5 starter behind Zimmerman, Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez which is what he’s good for these sdays. 4.33 ERA and less than 6 IP per start isn’t top of th eline stuff. Reason B) is that we have too many holes to fill. That is money which is better used (If not this offseason than next or during the season) on 4 or 5 guys who can help, however that breaks down to. We need starters, relievers, catcher and outfield. Hell take the $13M and use it to sign whatever combination of Harvey, Wheeler, and Familia sticks at the major league level to long term deals…

    • Joe Janish December 6, 2012 at 1:00 am
      I think you have it backward. The Mets couldn’t sign Haren to a one-year, $13M deal because a) he wouldn’t choose the Mets over the Nats; and b) the Mets can’t afford that much money.

      If the Mets had owners suited to New York (i.e., they had deep pockets) then Haren makes good sense as a calculated risk, because there’s a chance he can return to his 2011 form and be a true horse, and you can never have enough pitching. Yes, there are holes in other places but that’s the point of having deep pockets: spending to add a potentially high-reward arm shouldn’t take away from addressing other areas.

      The more I think about it, the more I find it crazy that the Yankees didn’t put in a bid on Haren. I’m starting to buy into the conspiracy theory that the Steinbrenners are poised to sell.

      • Dan B December 6, 2012 at 9:04 am
        While money appears to be tight, I think the problem with the Met owners is not how deep their pockets are but how they spend the money in their pockets. Evidence one is a certain Madoff investment and how they used that income to cover expense rather then baseball income. Also damming is how they loved backloaded contracts. For a group that made their money in real estate, I would think they would of learned from all those investors who lost their shirts buying properties with balloon mortgages. Lastly, they hired too many relatives (in this case one was too many) to run the team.
      • derek December 6, 2012 at 10:21 am
        Im with ya joe,

        i think the yanks are in sell mode…the sons dont have the passion like George and they want to get paid. not pay free agents. get under salary tax, make some money then sell…

        the yanks are associated with george not the sons. i dont think they want the pressure nor the comparisons with there dad.

      • Mike Kelm December 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm
        The Mets have tried the spend stupidly approach and it didn’t work for them (both pre-wilpons and post wilpons). Now they’re trying the build from within approach (which works for teams that commit to it, which we don’t).

        My point is that there is a time to open the pockets and their is a time to not open the pockets. If we were talking a major star like Josh Hamilton, then open the pockets. If we are talking about being one or two guys away, open the pockets and get them.

        But we are so far away from being a playoff team that it doesn’t make sense. The Nats have the money to pay someone $13M because if he can be what he used to be, they’d have 3 #1’s, a #2 (Haren) and a #3 (Detweiller), which means that they will have the best rotation in baseball. I’d rather take that money and fill in 3 or 4 holes rather than only one.

        There is no requirement that a New York team has to outspend everyone…

        • Joe Janish December 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm
          When did they spend stupidly pre-Wilpons?
          I would argue that their spending wasn’t stupid from 2004-2008 — they just didn’t fully commit to spending as was needed. Instead, they spent just enough to keep the team interesting, and relied on hopes and wishes instead of spending that little extra to get the one or two pieces vitally needed for a playoff berth. Prime examples: Shawn Green and Jeff Conine. Or, picking up Moises Alou a year too late.

          Also, why can’t a team spend on the 25-man roster AND continue building from within? I’m still waiting for someone to give me a plausible explanation on that one.

          I don’t expect the Mets to outspend “everyone.” But if they knew how to manage their assets and resources, they shouldn’t be getting outspent by teams in Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati. What was the point of the TV network and the fancy new stadium?

        • derek December 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm
          there is wayyyy more to the madoff loses then we know of that has hampered our spending….in 10 yrs someone from the inside will write a book about it….

          wilpons had all there eggs in the madoff basket….

        • Joe Janish December 7, 2012 at 9:49 am
          Derek, I’m sure you’re right. So why are these paupers still Major League Baseball owners, when there are dozens of people and groups that have the wherewithal to financially support a MLB team?

          Oh, right, MLB isn’t free enterprise — it is Bud Selig’s private club.

  4. Dan B December 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm
    I hear Jason Bay is about to sign w/ the Mariners for about $1 million. Shame the Mets couldn’t afford that kind of money for a power hitting outfielder like him.
  5. friend December 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm
    “signing Napoli will not cause them to trade a catcher”

    This should not be surprising, because he is to be Boston’s first baseman.

    • Joe Janish December 6, 2012 at 1:04 am
      Thank you for stating the obvious. I understand he will be their primary first baseman. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t still catch a few games, which means the Red Sox now have four catchers on their roster.

      When was the last time an Adulterated League team carried as many as three catchers, much less four? There are only so many reps the quartet can get, particularly since David Ortiz is a full-time DH.

      • friend December 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm
        The obvious needs to be stated to the obtuse. The Red Sox will carry Napoli as a first baseman, not as a catcher. When a player changes positions, you no longer count him at his old position. If Salty is not traded, Lavarnway will be optioned to the minors. Ross will be the starter. The active roster will show two catchers plus a first baseman.
        • friend December 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm
          Correction: Ross will be the backup.
        • Joe Janish December 7, 2012 at 9:57 am
          “you no longer count him at his old position”

          In fantasy baseball, yes. In actual baseball, Mike Napoli will still be capable of catching. Thus, he’s a catcher.

          So, if Lavarnway is sent to the minors, that makes him surplus. Generally speaking, teams prefer to trade from surplus. Thank you for confirming my original statement.

        • friend December 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm
          No, Lavarnway is not surplus, at present he represents the future starting catcher for the Red Sox. They will likely stick with Salty for a bit, but ultimately they will move him in favor of Lavarnway. As for Napoli, I’ll give another example. Victor Martinez will not be considered a catcher for the Tigers. Avila will be the starter, and someone else will be carried on the active roster as backups. You may like to view this as three catchers, but as far as the Tigers are concerned it is two catchers and one DH. Bottom line, the Red Sox see themselves as carrying two catchers on the active roster, and that will prevent them from feeling any need to move one sooner rather than later.
  6. Izzy December 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm
    Well, for all yu guys saying you wouldn’t take anybody, you got the right GM. understand the affection, he makes so few moves he can’t make many bad moves. too bad nobody cares that he doesn’t make any good moves, at least since the early 90’s.