Dan Haren is heading back west.
After a roller-coaster 2013 season with the Nationals, the 33-year-old California native reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract with the Dodgers that includes an option for 2015 that vests if Haren pitches 180 innings.
The deal, first reported by FOXSports.com, is obviously contingent on Haren passing a physical.
Haren went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA with the Nats this season, allowing 28 home runs in 169 2/3 innings, but after coming off the disabled list in July, he finished the year strong, going 6-5 with a 3.29 ERA and .626 OPS against in 16 games.
The veteran right-hander also added his first career save during that memorable 15-inning win over the Braves in mid-August, when he came out of the bullpen to close out a win despite having thrown a bullpen session earlier that day and started a game against the Giants two days prior.
All-in-all, this season wasn’t what the Nationals expected when they signed Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal last winter. Haren’s struggles out of the gate certainly played a factor in the Nats collectively getting off to a slow start, and it took until the midpoint of the season for him to finally get on track.
But Haren was a pro even when he was struggling, failing to make excuses or hide from interview requests when he could have easily done so. He stood up every fifth day and answered every question tossed his way, even when he was at his lowest point in the season when he started to question whether he had anything left in the tank and said he was embarrassed to show up to the stadium because of how poorly he was pitching.
Haren did eventually turn things around, cutting down on the home runs allowed and posting 10 quality starts in his final 15 starts of the season.
The Nationals never expressed much interest in retaining Haren, declining to present him with a qualifying offer that carried a $14.1 million price tag for the 2014 season, and Haren told me in an email a few weeks ago that he knew he and the Nats would be parting ways when he and general manager Mike Rizzo “kind of said (their) goodbyes” during a chat on the final day of the regular season.
Personally, I was a little surprised to see Haren get just a one-year deal, although it’s very possible that he took less money or fewer years in order to return to the West Coast, where he’s from and makes his home.
In a market that has already landed Tim Lincecum a two-year, $35 million deal and Jason Vargas a four-year, $32 million contract, I thought Haren could be in for a nice multi-year contract, especially given how many teams need help in the starting rotation.
If he stays healthy and pitches the way he knows he can and the way he did down the stretch in 2013, however, Haren could get to that 180-inning mark, triggering that vesting option for 2015 and turning his one-year deal into a two-year pact.
Haren was one of the most thoughtful and courteous players I’ve ever covered in any sport, and I wish him well. The Los Angeles media will be thrilled to have him back in the area, I’m sure.
In other free agent news, catcher Jose Molina has reportedly signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Rays, taking one of the more qualified backup catchers off the market.
The Nationals had expressed interest in Molina, according to a source, but they weren’t going to match the offer that the Rays had on the table.
They’ll continue to look around for a viable backup option to Wilson Ramos, with the possibility remaining that Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon enter spring training as the only other catchers on the 40-man roster, left to compete for the backup job.