Now that three years have passed since Arizona traded Dan Haren to the Angels, it’s a good time for a collaboration with Halos Daily on how the trade has panned out. Check out their post on the Angels’ end of the trade.
Dan Haren has been involved in two of the four or five most significant trades in the history of the Diamondbacks franchise. His arrival could, of course, be the subject of another post. But in return for Haren and Connor Robertson after the 2007 season, Arizona sent a boatload of prospects to Oakland, headlined by Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, and Carlos Gonzalez. Anderson has proved to be fragile, but has dominated when on the mound, with an 8.3 WAR in 73 starts over parts of five seasons. Chris Carter has only become a productive player since being moved to Houston this last offseason. Carlos Gonzalez, of course, became an outstanding hitter (19.7 WAR in parts of six seasons), especially after getting flipped by Oakland for Matt Holliday.
The Haren acquisition price looked high at the time, and the price doesn’t look any less steep now. In return, Arizona got two and a half excellent seasons from Haren and a package from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
On July 25 of 2010, Arizona shipped Dan Haren to Anaheim in return for Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders and a player to be named later. On August 7, Tyler Skaggs came to the Arizona organization to complete the trade.
At the time, the move was not popular for Arizona among fans or in the media. Jeff Passan of Yahoo was one of the biggest detractors, saying that the Angels “depantsed” the Diamondbacks, leaving them “naked and with nowhere to hide.” And in a breakdown for ESPN, Keith Law had “a hard time believing this was all the market would give up” for Haren, and noted that in talking with front-office types with other teams, “the unanimous response” was that it was “a great deal for the Angels and a bad one for Arizona.”
It’s pretty rare for one GM to bet against the market and win, so the general reaction at the time at the time of the trade is still a strong indication that it was a “win” for LAA. This is particularly true when the organization looked rudderless to the rest of the league after the firing of former GM Josh Byrnes. The early returns did nothing to make Arizona look any better.
In Arizona, the public face of the trade was Joe Saunders, a former 12th-overall pick by the Angels in the 2002 draft. The Dbacks obtained control over Saunders through the end of the 2012 season, but after a solid 2011 campaign in which Saunders pitched to a 12-13 record with 3.69 ERA in 212 innings, the Diamondbacks decided not to risk his final year of arbitration, non-tendering him before the 2012. Instead of what would doubtless have been a sizeable raise over his $5.5M 2011 salary through arbitration, Arizona signed him back for $6M. I’ll be frank – I have no idea whether I should count anything after the non-tender as value received in the Haren trade, but before getting traded last August in a waiver deal with Baltimore for Matt Lindstrom, Saunders logged 424.2 innings, going 21-30 with a 3.97 ERA. That’s a grand total of 3.2 WAR from Saunders over just over two seasons with Arizona.
Rafael Rodriguez is but a footnote in this story, as he appeared in relief for only two games in August 2010, letting up 2 earned runs in 2.2 IP. After less than 40 innings with the AAA club in 2011, Rodriguez was released.
Although Dan Haren’s performance had taken a dip in 2010 before being traded, he averaged nearly 6 WAR per season in the preceding two years (6.1 in 2008, 5.7 in 2009). Not counting a 2013 option year, Haren was under contract through the end of 2012. Even pulling back expectations to the 4.5-5 WAR per season range, Anaheim was looking at an expected 11-12 WAR or so at the time of the trade; were Saunders’ 3.2 WAR contribution the main acquisition for Arizona, the trade could be considered the depantsing that Passan had predicted.
But that was not all that the Diamondbacks received in that deadline deal. With Saunders came the Angels’ second round pick in the previous year’s draft, Patrick Corbin. The icing on the cake was snagging Tyler Skaggs, the Angels’ compensation round pick (40th overall) in the same draft.
It’s still early to evaluate what Corbin and Skaggs could mean to the Diamondbacks organization, but it’s not too early to say that Corbin has been one of the National League’s best starters so far in 2013. Coming up in the organization, Corbin was never ranked any better than ninth among Dbacks prospects. Corbin began 2012 with AA Mobile, but spent the majority of the season bouncing between that level and the bigs. After compiling a 4.54 ERA in 107 IP (22 games, 17 starts), Corbin was penciled in as the #5 starter in the major league rotation – but he has been a revelation, throwing 144.1 IP so far with a 2.24 ERA and 12-2 record and getting selected to the All-Star squad for the NL. Corbin’s 3.3 WAR this season
And Tyler Skaggs? He’s lost some zip on his fastball of late, just like last year. Despite that and getting shelled again Saturday, he still offers some hope of return on the Haren trade, as well. The major league cameos have not all worked to plan (7 starts, 5.35 ERA), but scouts have had confidence in his ability; Baseball America rated Skaggs its #12 prospect this spring after rating him #13 the year before. With his near-legendary curveball, Skaggs could become a solid mid-rotation starter even if he doesn’t get those ticks back on his fastball.
Evaluating a trade, even years after the fact, is a complicated consideration involving where the teams were, if they got to where they wanted to get, how the players performed, and how they impacted other teams’ rosters, including whether or not it gave other players a chance for playing time. But players don’t get traded; contracts (or rights) get traded. And Haren’s was a doozy for a Diamondbacks. Less than one year after the acquisition of Haren from Oakland, he and the club signed a $44.75M extension (with a significant $3.5 buyout for the 2013 option) that was due to pay him $12.75M each year in 2011 and 2012. At the time of the trade, there was no way to know or assume that Corbin and Skaggs’ value as assets or performance as pitchers would look as promising as they do now; but any kind of above-replacement performance from Corbin or Skaggs would have come at a very affordable price at the beginning of their MLB tenures.
The early major league careers of those two pitchers will tip the scales for the trade. If you combine Corbin’s Dbacks WAR (4.6) with that of Saunders (3.2), Arizona falls short of the 11-12 WAR they thought they were trading away. If Corbin surprises by flaming out, and Skaggs never lives up to his promise, the Dan Haren trade could still be a resounding victory for the Angels. If both pan out as above-average starting pitchers, the trade clearly cuts the other way. As of right now? I’d say that Diamondbacks fans are pretty happy with the result.
For a look at the Angels’ end of the Haren trade, check out this take by Halos Daily.
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Announcement: Double PlusWe're making a change: instead of roundups, which we used for smaller vignettes and to weigh in on links, we're opting for a more free-form format on Fridays. Expect two pieces shorter than our normal fare, with analysis of all shapes: using links as a jumping off point, extending or following up on research in a previous post, or addressing questions we find interesting even if we haven't narrowed down the answers. It's been 2+ years at this, and we'll both be contributing to these Friday two-packs of bonus content. We call it Double Plus.
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