Here’s a new one.
Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are set to be free agents in five days. Although each is controlled under a team option for 2013, those options – $15.5 million for Haren, $13 million for Santana – are expected to be declined given the down years for Santana (73 ERA+) and Haren (87 ERA+). Haren’s option includes a hefty $3.5 million buyout, so it’s possible that the Angels will decide he’s worth that $12 million difference and keep him.
The Angels have to make a decision on those options within three days.
Before making that decision, however, the Angels are going to shop each pitcher, reports Jon Heyman. It’s kind of quirky, because if the options are declined, these guys immediately become free agents. So, if you trade for one of them, all you’re really acquiring is the right to exercise the 2013 option (which, if you went to the trouble of trading for them, you’d obviously do). You don’t hear about deals like this too often, and, if something’s going to happen, it has to happen in the next three days, before those option decisions are due.
I think the Cubs should seriously consider feeling the Angels out on both pitchers.
Why would the Cubs give up prospects to get a guy they can likely sign as a free agent in a few weeks? Why would the Cubs give up prospects to get a guy on a really expensive one-year option?
Because those are exactly the kinds of deals the Cubs would love to sign pitchers to for 2013, but which free agents tend to hate – super short-term, high dollar amounts for one year. The Cubs are in a perfect position to absorb the cost associated with what amounts to a really expensive one-year deal for Haren and/or Santana – they have the money, and they have the desire to pick up flip-able pieces. And it’s not like these are worthless pitchers. Who knows what might happen in 2013 if the Cubs added one or both of them on the relative cheap?
How cheap? Well, here’s the thing: you’ve got to assume the asking price would be less than the value of a future compensatory pick (which comes after the first round of the Draft). Why? Because it’s highly unlikely that the Angels are going to make either Haren or Santana a “qualifying offer” in five days after declining their options. $13.5ish million? The pitchers might just accept it – Santana is coming off a terrible year, and Haren is coming off of a down year, as well, and has some health questions. In other words, because the Angels aren’t likely to make qualifying offers, they aren’t likely to get a compensatory pick for either of these guys, so they’ll take what they can get.
Which, of course, makes you wonder why would the Cubs want to take a $15.5 million risk on Haren and a $13 million risk on Santana. Well, they might not. That’s a pretty lofty price for each, and neither will approach that annual value amount on the free agent market. But, as I said earlier, the Cubs would get the pitcher(s) on mere one-year deals. No long-term commitment, and a chance to flip them for value mid-season (or, who knows … be competitive?). It could be hard to get other pitchers of their caliber to agree to one-year deals.
So, ultimately, it becomes a question of whether the options on each pitcher is just too much money, and whether the asking price – which, given everything, shouldn’t be too much – is just slightly too steep. In principle, going after both Haren and Santana in a pre-option-decision trade makes a whole lot of sense for the Cubs. But the devil will be in those financial and prospect details.
Obviously Haren is more attractive on this kind of deal than Santana, primarily because Santana might have to settle for a short-term deal next year anyway. Even if the trade cost on Santana was negligible, I’m not quite sure he’s worth that $13 million even on a mere one-year deal. Haren, on the other hand, given his track record, really might be worth the $15.5 million. If he returns to form in 2013 (which, admittedly, will require a return of some lost velocity, which is always a dicey proposition), he could genuinely help the Cubs, or he could net them a really nice mid-season return.