In his latest column, Jon Heyman relays the asking price for Diamondbacks ace Dan Haren. According to Heyman’s source, Arizona wants “two starting pitchers plus bullpen help” back for the ace. That’s a pretty staggering asking price, and one that probably precludes any team actually completing a trade for Haren.
What it really comes down to, though, is that Haren is just a phenomenally good pitcher. The only pitcher (starter or reliever) that ZiPS projects to beat Haren’s projected 4.95 K/BB ratio is Roy Halladay, at 5.71. Haren has posted four straight seasons at or above 4.0 WAR and looks prepared to do it again, with 2.6 WAR through the All-Star break. Certainly, with the Diamondbacks completely out of it and Cliff Lee set with the Texas Rangers, Haren looks like the ultimate prize on the market.
That is, if there was any reason whatsoever for Arizona to consider moving him. Haren is locked up through 2012 for a mere $25.5 million and, barring injury or collapse, should be a good bargain in 2013 with a $15.5 million team option. The 3.26 FIP that ZiPS projects is a roughly 5.5-6-win mark over a full season, making Haren about a $24-27 million player. He has a tremendous value both in terms of pure talent and in terms of his contract – the fact that he turns 30 in September is probably the major reason he doesn’t factor into our trade value rankings.
It seems to me that the ridicluous request of two starters and bullpen help is simply Arizona’s way of saying that Haren is untouchable. Although Arizona’s situation looks hopeless right now, they aren’t terribly far away from competing in 2011, 2012, or 2013, either. They have a legitimate superstar locked up in Justin Upton. Chris Snyder is under control until 2014 at catcher. Edwin Jackson is a decent mid-rotation pitcher. Mark Reynolds has tremendous power and is locked up until 2013. They have a variety of solid position players and starting pitchers. The bullpen, however, has been atrocious, and the unit’s historically bad -7.26 WPA is almost the complete reason for the team’s .382 winning percentage.
It’s certainly not going to be easy to fix all the holes that they have, but patching up a bullpen is much easier than attempting to add an ace or a superstar slugger. It may take more than one season, but there’s reason to believe that the core in Arizona can compete soon. Right now, it appears that the interim management in the desert knows that Dan Haren is going to be a major factor in any Diamondbacks team that competes any time in the near future.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.