Would trading for Dan Haren have changed the outcome of the Yankees' season?

On Wednesday, commenter Phil raised what I thought was a pretty interesting notion, one that I really hadn’t thought about at all since July — what if the Yankees had consummated the rumored trade for Dan Haren, and how might that have altered the outcome of the season?

Now, the idea of going back and tossing out all of the crappy Dustin Moseley/Javier Vazquez, etc. starts and inserting what Haren did with the Angels, while tempting, has a spectacular amount of flaws. There are so many presuppositions that need to be made, and obviously the rotation would have continued to evolve and adapt based on how well/poorly certain guys were pitching, so it’s impossible to know exactly whose numbers he’d be replacing. There’s also obviously no way of knowing whether Haren would’ve pitched exactly the same way he pitched for the Yankees in his Angels’ outings, and also whether the Yankee offense would’ve performed the same way it did in the Moseley/Vazquez/Nova starts.

Another significant problem with re-imagining the second half of the season with Haren in pinstripes is that we don’t know what the Yankees would have ended up having to yield to the D-Backs to complete the trade. All I remember hearing was that the deal was rumored to be centered around Joba Chamberlain. According to this July 24 Jon Heyman article, the Yankees actually balked when Arizona asked the team to include Joba, which seems questionable to me. If Arizona was indeed interested in a package headlined by Joba and a couple of lower-level minor leaguers, and Cash said no, then that could go down as one of Cashman’s worst non-trades, especially given that Arizona settled for Joe Saunders and three unheralded minor leaguers promising-but-ultimately-unknown quantities in Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Rafael Rodriguez from the Angels a mere day later. Now, if ‘Zona was asking for Joba and say, Jesus Montero, Cash’s refusal would make quite a bit more sense.

In any event, this being the offseason, where hypothetical scenarios and wild speculation rule the day, I thought it’d be fun to at least try and get a general idea of how a Haren acquisition might have affected the team down the stretch, and even into the postseason. Before we even look at the numbers, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Yankees probably would’ve been a better team in the second half and also held onto the AL East crown if they had had Dan Haren toeing the rubber every fifth day. The team could’ve replaced Joba’s bullpen innings with someone from the minor leagues — perhaps Ivan Nova, who might’ve fared even better had he been pressed into relief duty instead of starting — and even though Joba’s peripherals ended up being quite good on the season (2.98 FIP, 13th-best among AL relievers), I don’t think too many fans would’ve missed him given his penchant for surrendering timely hits to the opposition in 2010.

In any event, the best we can do is take a look at the performances of the guys that basically ended up taking over for Andy Pettitte from the time a Haren trade would’ve been consummated (let’s assume July 25 would’ve also been the day the Yankees acquired him), and compare them with what Haren actually did, as Haren would’ve presumably inherited Andy’s rotation slot:

Conveniently enough, Moseley and Nova ended up combining for almost the exact same number of innings that Haren gave Los Angeles — though it took them two more starts to do so — which helps make this comparison slightly more apt.

As you can see, those are some mighty impressive numbers from Mr. Haren, and as Phil noted in his comment, Haren also pitched to a 1.64 ERA against the Rangers over three starts while holding them to a .190 BA.

Now, would Haren have pitched to a 2.87 ERA in a Yankee uniform? Probably not, but I think it’s safe to say that had the Yankees been able to swap out Moseley/Nova’s .788 OPS against and 4.98 ERA with Haren’s .648 OPS against and an ERA around two runs lower, the team almost certainly would’ve fared much better in the second half of the season.

In addition to improving the Yankees’ lackluster finish to the regular season, adding Dan Haren might have had even more significant repercussions on the postseason. Though we couldn’t have asked for a better result in the ALDS against the Twins, Haren would have presumably taken the hill in Game 2, pushing Pettitte to Game 3 in the first round, and perhaps bumping Hughes all the way to the next round, assuming the Yankees still swept.

An ALCS rotation of CC SabathiaDan HarenPhil HughesAndy Pettitte looks a touch more formidable than Sabathia-Hughes-Pettitte-A.J. Burnett, wouldn’t you say? Haren almost certainly would’ve pitched better than Hughes did in Game 2 (although then again, so could your grandmother), but we don’t even know if they would’ve played the Rangers in the LCS, because they might have won the division with Haren. And again, this is all with the benefit of extraordinary hindsight, as it also assumes that Pettitte would’ve still been able to stay in the rotation and pitch as effectively as he did through the injuries we didn’t find out about until after the Yankees had been bounced from the postseason.

Of course, given what we know now about Sabathia himself pitching with a minor injury, this postulating is probably all moot anyway — even if they made it to the World Series, I don’t know how far they’d get with Sabathia battling a torn meniscus.

Anyway, while I think Phil has a pretty good point in that the Yankees missing out on Haren might have changed the course of the season, it’s ultimately impossible to pass judgment on this non-deal as we don’t know what the parameters of a potential trade were. If the transaction was indeed for Joba and assorted minor league friends not named Montero, then Cashman probably will end up regretting passing on a 30-year-old starter with 31.1 career fWAR for a slightly-better-than-he-appears-to-be reliever with mostly untapped starting potential and who looks like he’s going to be permanently relegated to that great discard heap in the Bronx.

7 thoughts on “Would trading for Dan Haren have changed the outcome of the Yankees' season?

  1. 3 unheralded prospects? Look I get that you're a Yankee fan, and that's your business, but at least pretend to be somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the prospects included in the deal, they certainly weren't "unheralded"

    Tyler Skaggs – As an 18 year old who technically could have been a senior in high school, this 1st round pick compiled a 3.29 ERA with more K's than IP, a 4-1 K/BB ratio and a WHIP at 1.1. Tyler Skaggs was regarded by scouts as one of the most talented LHP to come out of high school in recent memory. He was certainly one of the best in A ball this season. This kid has front-end of the rotation "stuff" and could end up in a major league uniform at age 20.

    Pat Corbin – As a 20 year old coming out of a JC, there wasn't much expected of Corbin. Low 90's fastball, good control and two good offspeed pitches is pretty much the arsenal of any solid minor league prospect. What separates them is their ability to adapt and grow. In his first season as a pro, Corbin was able to skip up to advanced A ball where he compiled an ERA under 3 and fanned 94 batters in 86 innings. He's going to be a 21 year old in AA next season and there's already talk of him joining the D-Backs rotation by the end of next year.

    When you combine those two left handed pitchers, with an end of the rotation starter like Joe Saunders and a young reliever in rafael Rodriguez, and the fact that the Angels assumed all of Haren's contract, this deal was actually pretty solid for the D-Backs. They shed money, got two of the top lefty pitching prospects in low minors with tremendous upside and they are all under team control for relatively cheap.

    In order to match this deal, Cashman would have had to offer up Joba Chamberlain, Manny Banuelos, Zack McAllister and Boone Logan as well as take on all of Haren's contract. For the Yankees, this isn't a big deal because they have unlimited money, but for other teams that operate on a budget, this is a big deal.

    Cashman didn't pull the trigger simply because it was not in the Yankees best interest to give us such prospects in a deal for a pitcher who had a 4. something ERA in the NL. The Yankees already had CC, Pettite, Hughes, Burnett, Vazquez, Joba…adding Dan Haren wasn't going to be the difference maker. The Angels had Weaver, Santana and Pineiro. But after that, they had two end of the rotation lefties in Kazmir and Saunders. THey needed Dan Haren, thus they paid the price.

  2. Thanks for the stopping by, Anon & Anon Supporter of the aforementioned Anon –

    You make some excellent points. You're right that the deal was centered around prospects along with Joe Saunders. And to your point, dumping salary was also a large benefit of the deal. While I don't think Arizona was necessarily ripped off, the bounty wasn’t quite as high profile as some might have expected.

    While I can’t speak for Larry, I think the point of his sentiments was this. Saunders was the only pitcher in the deal who had actual proven experience (and he is definitely a back of the rotation type of guy). The other pitchers (despite having high upsides) are very, very, young undeveloped arms. It wasn’t as if the D-backs got a top prospect like Kyle Drabek in return.

    Prior to the 2010 regular season, the Yankees traded Arodys Vizcaino during the Javy trade. I think that’s a pretty good comparison because while Arodys had a big upside, he was still a huge gamble. Kids who are that raw in experience (regardless of the hype), often times simply don’t pan out. Because of this reality, it’s hard to put a whole lot stock into Low-A arms – hence the “unheralded” tag.

    I also remember that when the Yankees contemplated the trade, the deal seemed a bit steeper (at least in my eyes). Joba has decent upside (although some might dispute that now) and the corresponding prospects were all just about ready for The Bigs (although none were considered “elite” prospects). If this was all that was required, I'm sure Cashman would have pulled the trigger. However, Cashman balked at the deal once the arrangement became larger than just prospects. As you are well aware, Haren’s contract is pretty hefty and that was being insisted upon. It was at this point that the Yankees decided the need didn’t out weigh the want.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I’m sure Larry will be happy to chime in on this discussion later when he has an opportunity.

    Great talking points, though!

  3. Everyone should just stop with wondering what would have happened if the Yankees got another pitcher because their offense was still absent and they will reload next year like always cant win em all

  4. Anon,

    Much appreciated on the info — I realized while writing this that I was probably giving short shrift to the prospects surrendered by LAA, so thank you for filling me in.

    Matt also pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. Anon cites a package of Joba Chamberlain, Manny Banuelos, Zack McAllister and Boone Logan as being comparable, which if that would have been the case, I certainly don't blame Cash for passing on.

    It actually sounds like LAA might've gotten somewhat ripped off on the deal if Skaggs and Corbin are as good as advertised, considering the Angels also had to pick up Haren's entire salary.

    Also, kind of crazy that the Angels went ahead and did that deal despite being seven games out at the time. Very interested to see what moves the aggressive Arte Moreno makes this offseason.

  5. The move was certainly made with the future in mind. It was apparent at the trade deadline that the Angels simply weren't going to put up 90+ wins like normal. Successful teams have successful pitching staffs and a 1-3 of Weaver, Santana, and Pineiro, while decent, wasn't going to get the Angels anywhere. So the steep price paid for Haren was paid specifically with 2011 and 2012 in mind. Sort of like how Kazmir was brought in with the sole purpose of replacing John Lackey, which he clearly didn't do.

    As for the prospects, the term "like popcorn in the pan, some pop, and some don't" still applies here. However, being left handed, as young as they are, with their "stuff" and as advanced as they are, they both more than likely have a future in the big leagues. The biggest part of the trade was actually the idea of having three rotation worthy left handed pitchers. Those don't exactly grow on trees.

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