Nationals sign Dan Haren to one-year, $13 million contract

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Dan Haren has agreed to a one-year, $13 million contract with the Nationals, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Last month the Angels nearly traded Haren to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol and then, when that fell through, declined his $15.5 million option and paid him a $3.5 million buyout. In other words, Haren will actually end up being paid more than that $15.5 million option for 2013 because he’ll get the $3.5 million buyout and the $13 million from Washington.

Haren has long been one of MLB’s most underrated pitchers, posting a 3.48 ERA with fantastic strikeout-to-walk ratios from 2005-2011 and topping 200 innings every season. Back and hip problems in 2012 limited him to 177 innings and a 4.33 ERA that’s the worst of his career, but if healthy Haren could be a major bargain and the one-year deal lessens the Nationals’ risk.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has made his intention to sign a veteran starting pitcher clear, which is why some people were surprised that Rizzo declined to make a qualifying offer to departing free agent Edwin Jackson. They would have been in line for a draft pick as compensation if Jackson signed elsewhere and if Jackson chose to accept the qualifying offer the Nationals would have been on the hook for a one-year, $13.5 million deal. Or basically the same contract they ended up giving Haren.

Washington’s rotation is now Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler. On the heels of acquiring Denard Span as the new center fielder/leadoff man Rizzo has had quite a productive past week or so.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.