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.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.