What we know about the potential Dan Haren trade

I've been a bit under the weather the past week so I have read very little Cubs related news with the exception of what's been posted on this site. I know Berselius mentioned something about people on his twitter feed being upset at the Cubs for failing to complete another trade. If I understood him correctly, they argue that this nearly completed trade, along with that of Ryan Dempster to the Braves, might mean the front office is responsible.

Berselius rightly points out that it wasn't the front office that leaked the information, but the players. Carlos Marmol leaked it and so did Dempster. That being said, I am sympathetic to the arguments that Berselius may not be. I actually think it's a good thing these things have happened. It's not like other teams don't have players that leak information to the media, but what we've seen with the Cubs might indicate that they're constantly evaluating their options. This is much preferred to a front office that identifies a player it wants and moves in whatever direction needed to acquire him. Some deals are good. Some aren't. If a trade becomes undesirable, they should leave it on the table and move on.

I'm not really interested in further arguing that point at the moment. There's time for that later. For now, let's figure out what we know, think we know and what we don't know about what happened last night. If you'd like, you can say we'll talk about what we're sure about (facts), quite sure about (confirmed by enough sources that it is likely true) and what we don't know.

What we know

  • The Cubs are required by Major League Baseball to assemble a team for the 2013 season. Nobody can say that MLB doesn't have a sense of humor.
  • The Angels held a $15.5 million option for Dan Haren. If they declined that option, they were on the hook for the $3.5 million buyout.
  • Carlos Marmol is under contract through 2013 and will earn $9.8 million next year.
  • The Angels were trying to trade both Ervin Santana and Haren prior to the deadline to decide whether or not to exercise the options for each player (they traded Santana to the Royals).
  • The Angels ended up declining the option opting instead to pay the $3.5 million buyout.

What we think we know

  • The Cubs and Angels were discussing a trade involving Dan Haren.
  • Carlos Marmol believed he had been traded to the Angels for Haren.
  • The Cubs pulled out of the deal.

What we don't know

  • If any money was involved in the trade
  • Why the Cubs may have backed out

I'm sure I missed something, but I think that about covers it up. A lot of attention will be given to the final item. That's what I'm going to do. I obviously don't know why they did (that's why it's under "what we don't know), but there are a few possiblities more likely than others.

At the point the two teams were mostly in agreement, the Cubs would have been given access to Haren's medical records. It's entirely possible there was something there that led them to this decision. The best known example of this that I can think of is Angel Guzman. The Royals initially signed him as an amateur, but after a physical they found some sort of issue (defect?) in his right arm. They chose to terminate the contract and the Cubs signed him. Don't give me any of this "terrible decision" crap. It cost them nickels and the potential reward was huge.

Perhaps related to an injury, but probably not, maybe the Cubs just happened to see that he's been losing velocity and can barely hit 90 mph anymore.

That's not atypical, but just maybe it was enough to scare them off.

It's also possible the Cubs were wanting to sign Haren to an extension and learned that wouldn't be likely. Who knows? Maybe the Cubs really wanted to sign a guy to a longterm contract who can barely hit 90 mph. I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs wanted to sign him to a 2 or 3 year extension, but anything longer than that was unlikely to begin with.

It seems to me the most likely reason the Cubs backed out is because they became confident they could sign him to a free agent contract. If the Cubs were relatively certain that the Angels would decline the option this makes a lot of sense. There's more than enough reason to think the Angels were going to do just that. They traded Santana for basically nothing. They were willing to do the same for the Cubs (sorry Marmol).

Had the Cubs traded for Haren, they'd be responsible for the $15.5 million he's owed. If he's a free agent, Haren won't earn as much money. If he was worth $15+ million, the Angels wouldn't be trading him for almost nothing. It's safe to say that no team in their right mind is going to value Haren at $15.5 million.

Not only can the Cubs save some money, they also get to keep Marmol. It's not like Marmol has much value, but he's another piece the Cubs can offer in another trade.

I'm sure some people think I've been too critical of the new front office, but here's one for you: I think the Cubs played this brilliantly. I think the Cubs were ready and willing to complete the trade if necessary. They'd worked out a trade and left it to the Angels to find a better one. If they couldn't, they'd come back to the Cubs and at least they'd end up with Marmol. However, seeing as they're now minutes away from the deadline to exercise or decline the option, the Cubs pulled out of the trade knowing he'd soon be a free agent.

It never made much sense to me why the Angels expected to trade either Haren or Santana. If they're going to decline the options, and all the available information said they would, why wouldn't a team just wait a few days and sign that player for less than what he'll be paid? They get to keep whatever they'd have included in the trade too.

I think the Cubs played this one about as best they could. They were willing to pull the trigger on a deal if they thought he'd be traded. Haren is still a good pitcher and one the Cubs would clearly like. They were in a position to acquire him having offered more for him than any other team. As long as they were still a possibility, the Angels wouldn't accept another trade without first seeing if the Cubs were ready to complete the trade. This gave the Cubs the opportunity to get Haren by trading them Marmol if they had to.

They went into this trade wanting Dan Haren to be a Cub and saw the clock ticking down at which point  something did not make sense: trading a player so you can pay someone more than he's worth. The Cubs became confident they could still get Haren without having to do that and backed out.

Obviously I don't know if that's what happened. Of all the possibilities, that makes the most sense to me.