Well, the Nationals made a significant splash signing a former ace who spent last season with the Los Angeles Angels. No, not that one.
This is like the Edwin Jackson signing last year, only I will argue that this deal has more upside for the Nationals and a return to the National League might be exactly what Haren needs.
Haren is coming off of his worst season of his career last year with the Angels when he was expected to be a major part of a rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana. Haren was 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA and 176.2 innings. It was the first full season with Haren that he was below league average in ERA+ and the first season he failed to reach 200 innings since his first two part-time seasons in the Major Leagues in 2003 and 2004 with the Cardinals.
Haren’s best season came the season before he was traded to the Angels with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was 14-10 with a 3.14 ERA in 2009. A return to the National League should give him a bump even if he doesn’t re-find his form from earlier in his career. Haren is only 32, so he shouldn’t be at the decline period just yet although health is a concern and so his the upcoming physical.
The best part of this move for the Nationals is that while it gives them a pitcher capable at camping at the top of the rotation, he is only signed for one year and doesn’t hinder any future spending by the Nationals when it comes to long term deals to pitchers already in the organization.
For Haren, this is a great deal because he goes somewhere where he isn’t expected to be an ace or a savior and he gets to rebuild his value on a contending team in the National League. It didn’t really work for Jackson but I am very optimistic about this deal. I have always been a Haren fan and having him in the rotation puts the Nationals in a really good spot. They will still need some depth, especially in the bullpen and with some depth guys who can start but with Bill Bray and Zach Duke being signed yesterday, they appear on their way with that as well.
All in all, the only way this turns out to be a bad deal is if Haren really struggles or has injury problems. That is definitely a possibility given his history but I think this is a risk worth taking and one that Mike Rizzo had to take.