The Angels made a great short and long-term move by acquiring Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday for Angels starter Joe Saunders and three minor leaguers.
Haren, 29, is the same age as Saunders—only Saunders has never shown the capacity to be the ace of a staff. Haren has.
Haren is on his way to his third straight year of 200-plus strikeouts and his sixth straight year of 200-plus innings pitched. Saunders has never pitched 200 innings or had more than 103 strikeouts in his career.
Acquiring Haren was like picking up an extra reliever as well, since the Angels will not be taxing their struggling bullpen with a pitcher that can’t make it past the sixth inning— something Saunders has failed to do in 12 of his 20 starts this season, and in 21 of his 31 starts last year.
The former Pepperdine University star and California native clearly has better “stuff” and endurance than Saunders, whose only advantage was that he makes less money than Haren.
In the short term, this trade obviously makes the Angels better. If by some miracle the Angels manage to overcome their 7-game deficit to Texas and make the playoffs, they would have a dynamic four-man rotation of Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Piñeiro.
While many in the media have already said this signals the Angels have not given up on this season, it more importantly is laying the groundwork for the future.
Haren is only in the second year of a five-year deal, which means the Angels will have a strong, young starting rotation nucleus for years to come.
It means they can now concentrate on finding offense and relievers, without enduring the anxiety of a prolonged bidding war for a starting pitcher like Roy Oswalt.
If the Angels had traded for Prince Fielder, you might be able to make more of a case that the Angels are playing for this season. That would be a short-sighted move to dedicate that much money and resources to a one-dimensional player that will be replaced once Kendry Morales returns next season.
This move is looking to the future as much as it is the present.
It is rare to find a pitcher of Haren’s stature with such little trade value, but the theory has been Haren had lost his competitive edge playing for a team that is 22 games out of first place as of today, and was 19.5 games out at this time last season.
We will get to see how quickly those competitive juices can get stirred tonight, when Haren makes his first start for the Angels against the Boston Red Sox and Clay Buchholz.
The other significant part of this trade was that the Angels actually parted with some prospects. They might finally be learning that putting up big numbers in “A” ball, does not always translate into putting them up at "The Big A."
To the absolute frustration of Angel nation, year after year, the Angels had refused to part with prospects at the trade deadline to acquire front-line talent.
The bitter disappointment left in management’s mouth over the utter failure of Brandon Wood, along with underachieving performances by Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Kevin Jepsen, might be triggering a change in that philosophy.
The Angels gave up three prospects in this trade—pitcher Patrick Corbin, 21, being the main one. Corbin is 13-3 this season, but had a far from dominate ERA of 3.88 for the single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes this season.
Another minor league pitcher, Rafael Rodriguez, was also included—along with a player to be named later.
That player, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, is pitcher Tyler Scaggs, who was a sandwich pick in 2009.
Considering Haren has already made three All-Star appearances in his six full seasons as a starting pitcher, it seems like a small price to pay.
With only five days left until the trade deadline, it is probably too little, too late for the Halos this season. However, this should give the fans a lot of excitement and hope for the future.
Bonus Stat: Dan Haren is just six strikeouts behind Angel teammate Jered Weaver for the Major League lead with 141.