Talking Haren and the waiver wire

Tired of the doom and gloom talk? Had enough of discussions about the Nationals' "World Series or Bust" season looking a lot like "bust" with a quarter of the schedule still remaining?

How about some good news, then? Ready?

Dan Haren gets the ball for the Nats tonight when they open a three-game series with the Phillies.

A month ago, fans probably wouldn't have seen that as good news, but lately, Haren has been on an absolute roll.

The veteran right-hander has posted a 2.40 ERA and .206 batting average against in five starts since coming off the disabled list. He's allowed just one earned run in his last 14 innings, and is coming off a stellar seven-inning outing his last time out, when he held the Brewers scoreless, surrendered just four hits and struck out six.

Since that DL stint, Haren has a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has allowed just two homers in 30 innings.

Haren's been focusing on keeping the ball down in the zone lately, and over the last month, he's looked a lot more like the guy the Nats thought they were getting when they signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal this winter.

CBSsports.com reported yesterday that Haren was placed on waivers, which isn't entirely surprising. With it looking like the Nats will miss out on the postseason (sorry, there's that doom and gloom talk coming back again), they might try and pass a couple of their more veteran players on waivers just to see if a deal with another team can be reached.

How this process works is if a team puts in a claim on Haren (the team with the worst winning percentage gets first option and the team with the highest winning percentage gets last option) then the Nats can only negotiate with that team. If a deal cannot be worked out, the Nats pull Haren back off waivers and keep him. If Haren clears waivers however, the Nats can talk shop with any team.

Haren is still owed just under $3.7 million for the rest of the season and his overall numbers this year haven't been great, but if a team in need of pitching is willing to eat some of the money Haren is still due to make, the Nats might look to deal the 32-year-old right-hander.

On another, more random, note, Baseball America released its "Best Tools" list, in which major league managers vote to determine which players rank highest in a number of categories.

Here's the entire list, but if you're looking for the Cliffs Notes version involving just Nationals players, I've got you covered.

Bryce Harper came in second in the National League in the "Most Exciting" category, behind the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen; Tyler Clippard came in third in the "Best Changeup" category; Jordan Zimmermann came in third in "Best Control"; Adam LaRoche ranked first in the league in "Best Defensive First Baseman"; Ian Desmond was second in "Best Defensive Shortstop" and was tops in the league in "Best Infield Arm"; and Davey Johnson ranked third in the NL in the "Best Manager" category.

It's unclear when managers were asked to vote on this stuff, so we don't know whether they were judging LaRoche's defense on this year or his work up until this season. It would be tough to argue that LaRoche has been the top defensive first baseman in the NL this season (or even that he should be in the top three), although last year was a tremendous defensive season for him.

Desmond certainly has a great arm, but I'm a little surprised to see him get voted as having the best infield arm in the NL, and given the way the Nats have played as a whole this season, one could argue Johnson's stock has taken a bit of a hit. But the Nats were clearly well-represented on this list, indicating how highly some of their players are thought of by managers around the league.

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