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Padres could be a fit for Dan Haren this winter

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Free agent right-hander Dan Haren had a frustrating 2012, posting a pedestrian 4.33 ERA across 176 2/3 innings while fighting a lingering lower back issue.

Haren should still find plenty of interest on the open market this offseason, but if he would rather do a one-year “prove-it” style of deal to reestablish his value, there’s no better place than San Diego.

And it turns out the Padres might have interest.

Here’s Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A smile crossed the face of the Padres general manager Friday night when the trade between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Chicago Cubs fell apart. The Angels were trying to send right-handed starting pitcher Dan Haren to the Cubs for reliever Carlos Marmol.

Instead, after the deal with the Cubs collapsed, the Angels bought out Haren’s option for $3.5 million – turning Haren into a free agent.

When it appeared Haren was headed to the Cubs, Byrnes Friday afternoon admitted Haren was among the “eight to 10” starting pitchers the Padres were very interested in.

Even with the Petco Park fences getting a makeover, San Diego is going to remain very pitcher-friendly.

And it shouldn’t take much for Haren to get back on track if he can get a handle on his back discomfort.

The 32-year-old registered a spectacular 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 192/33 K/BB ratio across 238 1/3 innings with the Angels in 2011. He boasts a solid 3.66 career ERA and a cool 1.18 career WHIP.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.