Tradespin: Dan Haren done dealing in the desert

By Ian Kay

The Angels and Diamondbacks got together on a deal Sunday, with right-hander Dan Haren heading to Lala Land in exchange for left-hander Joe Saunders, pitching prospects Rafael Rodriguez and Patrick Corbin and a player to be named later — reportedly pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs.

What the Angels got:

In Dan Haren, the Halos receive…well, that depends. Between ’05 and ’09, the right-hander was one of the baseball’s great under-appreciated assets. Over those five seasons — the first three with the A’s, the last two in Arizona — he averaged 15 wins per season with a 3.53 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 7.8 K/9. His K/BB paced the Majors in each of the past two campaigns.
This year, however, has been a different story. Despite increasing his K-rate once again (he’s done that in each successive season of his career) to 9.00 and keeping his walks at a better-than-respectable 1.9 BB/9, Haren is 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. The difference? Our old friends, BABIP, HR/FB rate and LOB percentage. 
Haren is seeing more balls in play drop for hits (.350 BABIP in ’10, .305 career), more of his flyballs leave the park (13.9 percent in ’10, 11.1 career) and stranding fewer runners on base (70.9 percent in ’10, 73.2 career) than usual. Plain and simple, it’s bad luck. That’s really the only explanation for a 4.86 K/BB ratio producing an ERA worse than the league average.
Sometimes, a change of scenery is the perfect solution to luck-induced mediocrity. Haren moves to a tougher league, but he’ll also toss home turns in a far more pitcher-friendly ballpark and have a much more reliable bullpen protecting potential victories. There’s no guarantee he’ll turn things around this year, but the percentages are in his favor. I liked him as a buy low before and I like him even better now. How does 7 wins with a 3.11 ERA, 84 Ks and a 1.08 WHIP sound? Good? I thought so. Make an offer if his owner isn’t into the whole “advanced stats” thing.
What the Diamondbacks got:

In short, not much fantasy owners need to worry about. This looks more like a salary dump than anything else.
Joe Saunders is what he is at this point: a pitch-to-contact lefty whose ERA is mostly dependent on luck. He posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in ’08 thanks to a .257 BABIP, but a 4.61 mark in 306 innings since then is probably a better indicator of his true talent level. Chase Field deflates his fantasy value slightly, but Saunders was just spot start material in 12-team mixed leagues anyway.
The other players the D-backs received figure to have even less immediate fantasy value than Saunders. Rafael Rodriguez is a right-handed reliever with 32 2/3 Major League innings under his belt. Arizona’s ‘pen has been a mess all year, but even Raf-Rod isn’t a high-K option and probably won’t factor into the saves picture any time soon.
Neither Patrick Corbin nor Tyler Skaggs has pitched above Class A, but Arizona’s return in this trade will ultimately depend on their development. Skaggs, the 40th overall pick in the ’09 Draft, has a 3.60 ERA and 82 Ks in 82 1/3 innings with Class A Cedar Rapids. Corbin, a second-rounder a year ago, has a 3.88 ERA and 64 whiffs in 60 1/3 innings one level higher at High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Both should be on the radar for owners in deep dynasty formats, but they’re still at least two years away from contributing in the Majors.

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