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Gambling on Dan Haren

The Royals have made starting pitching their off-season priority and the Angels might well be cutting ties with two starters. Could Dan Haren be a fit for Kansas City? Is it a gamble the small market Royals can afford to take?

Christian Petersen - Getty Images

After throwing more than 200 innings in seven consecutive seasons, Dan Haren tossed just 176 frames in 2012. His strikeout rate was virtually identical to 2011 when Haren 238 innings to an ERA of 3.17 and an xFIP of 3.29 (although it should be noted that his 2011 rate of 7.25/9 was a full strikeout lower than it had been the previous three seasons). Haren's walk rate, however, was up and his home runs allowed nearly doubled from the 2011 season.

For that, there is a very good chance that the Angels will pay the $3.5 million buyout in Haren's contract to avoid owing him $15.5 million in 2013. So, my friends, as we hash, re-hash, double secret hash and generally analyze the off-season inside and out, should Dan Haren be a target of the Royals?

Haren turned 32 last month and battled back problems most of last season. You can look at that two ways. One could say 'hey, at least it was not his arm' or one could say 'yeah, but it is his back and sometimes those things don't go away'. Especially if you are thirty-two and have thrown 1,700 innings in the past eight years.

After a pretty miserable first half that culminated in Haren giving up 20 runs over 23 innings, the right-hander spent some time on the disabled list in July. When he came back on July 23rd, Haren would go on to pitch 73 innings and allow 68 hits, 29 runs, 14 walks and 14 home runs. He struck out 56 over that stretch and posted a 3.57 earned run average.

Haren's 2012 overall numbers frankly look like a pitcher who was throwing with a sore back. His velocity was down, his walk rate was up and, perhaps more telling about a slight loss of control, his home run rate was extremely elevated. Batters were swinging less and making contact more. Haren simply was not throwing the type of stuff that made him one of the league's best pitchers for an extended period of years.

What I was really hoping to find when I started looking at Haren was that his velocity came back after his July sabbatical. As it turns out, Haren did not throw a pitch above 89 mph in either of his last two starts and only trickled over the 90 mph barrier on rare occasions throughout the month of September.

For the entire year, Haren's two seam fastball averaged just 88.5 mph, down from 89.1 in 2011 and 90.5 in the prior two seasons. That declining track is similar with every pitch in Haren's repertoire. That trend began in 2011 and became pronounced in 2012. Was the back a lingering issue even two season's ago? Is it really better or has Haren just learned to soldier on and be competent with it bothering him?

There is a large part of me that would like Dayton Moore to make a run at Haren. After all, if he could get back to the pitcher he was for seven straight years, the Royals would actually have an ace - or something very close to it. The problem with that previous sentence is the 'if': it should be capitalized and in least.

Do you gamble on Dan Haren? And if so, just how much do you gamble?

I would not be inclined to trade for him as whatever prospect the Royals would have to surrender (and I don't think it would take anyone major at this point) plus the $15.5 million you would have to pay Haren seems to be too much to pay for a 32 year old with a two year record of declining velocity.

Could the Royals get Haren on a one year/$10 million deal? Or is even that too much?

In an effort to rebuild his value for one last big contract, would Haren come on-board with a cheap one year deal full of incentives? Is one year long enough to bridge the gap before the in-house options come to fruition, if they ever do?

The problem is, as we all know, one year and ten million dollars from the Royals is not the same as one year and ten million dollars from the Nationals or the Tigers. Dayton Moore might have to add that coveted 'extra year' to the deal just to get Haren to return his calls. If that is the option, do you want Dan Haren to return Moore's call?

If you are asking my opinion - well, you're not asking, you're getting it unsolicited - at this moment in time, I would be willing to take a gamble. The Royals won't be in on Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez is quickly pitching his way outside of their price range.

Haren could be a disaster, but if the past two years were all about the back and IF the back is better, Dan Haren could also be better than any other option out there this off-season.