During the past off-season, the Los Angeles Dodgers made multiple signings to address their pitching — both starting and relief. One of the additions was veteran right-hander Dan Haren, who was coming off a 10-14 season with the Washington Nationals.
Although Haren posted a sub-.500 record, 2013 was his third consecutive season with double-digit wins and at least 30 starts.
Haren’s one-year, $10 million contract with a vesting option for 2015 figured to make him an expensive backend starter, but a necessary one given Chad Billingsley’s and Josh Beckett’s injury concerns.
Billingsley was lost for the season due to another elbow surgery and Beckett combined with Haren to fill out the rotation’s depth. That was until recently.
Beckett’s health is once again a question mark and Haren has suffered four consecutive losses. The right-hander began the season 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA through his first six starts but is 4-8 with a 5.42 ERA since that point.
Haren complained of more back discomfort than normal after his first loss on May 7 and though he hasn’t publicly raised that issue again, it may be a factor that’s affecting his performance.
The $10 million investment now resembles money spent poorly rather than a sound or lucky one. The Dodgers are averaging 4.37 runs per game when Haren starts but have just a 10-11 record when the 12-year veteran has taken the mound.
While much of the focus is on what Haren can do to turn his season around or how it may sway the Dodgers to be more aggressive at the trade deadline, a bigger issue looms.