The options for almost all major-league players had to be picked up or declined by Wednesday afternoon. For Dan Haren, though, the decision isn't due until Friday. The new collective bargaining agreement has reduced the waiting period on options to three days, but if a contract already had the old five-day waiting period in it, as Haren's does, it was grandfathered in.
That means that, between the time you're reading this and Friday afternoon, someone might very well trade for Dan Haren. The Angels already moved Ervin Santana, a lesser pitcher with a similarly expensive option, to the Kansas City Royals -- Haren's contract gets in the way of a Zack Greinke extension in the same way Santana's would, so the Angels are likely to move him, too, before they lose the opportunity to do so.
According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox are one of the teams interested in Haren. Whether they're waiting for Haren to be a free agent, or planning on trading for him, is unknown at this point. But you're probably safe to assume that the Sox are asking about him now, given that "several" teams are in on Haren, according to both Cafardo and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Because multiple teams want in on Haren, he's going to cost the Red Sox something. That doesn't mean that the bidding is going to get ridiculous to the point of one of the top prospects in the system heading west in order to bring in the right-hander, but Boston -- or whoever -- is going to have to give up something. Giving up superfluous 40-man pieces isn't going to cut it, so, sadly, that means that Alfredo Aceves and Pedro Ciriaco can't simply be dumped on the Angels to do them the favor of taking Haren away, saving them the cost of his $3.5 million buyout. Too many other teams want pitching for that to be the reality of the situation.
What should the Red Sox be willing to give up to get Haren, then? Before figuring that out, knowing who Haren is would be helpful.
Haren has averaged 217 innings per year over the last three seasons, despite being limited to just 176 in 2012 thanks to back problems. That, in a nutshell, is Haren: he's extremely valuable due to his being a workhorse, but that very thing has been compromised by his back. He's more of a risk because of this, and that's why the Angels don't want to deal with his option, and would rather invest in Zack Greinke long-term. For a team like Boston, who has the money to swallow a one-year deal, and some potential pitching depth behind Haren in the form of Franklin Morales, Haren could work.
From 2009 through 2011, Haren averaged 234 innings per season. The last time the Red Sox had a pitcher throw at least 230 innings in a single season was 1998, when Pedro Martinez tossed 233. In the last 20 seasons, just two 230-inning campaigns exist in Boston's history, the other the property of Roger Clemens. Even if Haren isn't elite with his performance, if he can be leaned upon for that many innings, he's a huge boost to a Red Sox team that has had their bullpen throw far too many frames in the last two years.
With Jake Peavy off of the market, Haren is the highest-upside short-term arm on the market as well. If Boston gets unlucky, and Haren's back just can't handle 200 innings (or high-quality performances) anymore, then Boston is just on the hook for the one year. It's not the optimal setup -- you want Haren to succeed, and for Boston to succeed through him -- but it sure beats being locked into a long-term deal with any pitchers who have similar risks.
So, what you have is a high-upside, high-risk arm that will cost $15.5 million in 2013. The fact he has upside brings up his price, but the money -- the Angels don't want to assume it -- and the risk keep Haren's price down from where it would have been a year ago at this time. Essentially, the team getting Haren can't give up nothing, but they will very likely be able to pull this off while giving up a B-level prospect.
For Boston, that means the likes of Drake Britton, Keury De La Cruz, Brandon Jacobs, or maybe Alex Wilson or Stolmy Pimentel. You're talking about players out of the top 10 for the Sox, but still maintaining ceiling and value. Proximity to the majors could be a plus as well, and Boston is likely to want to move someone on their 40-man in order to bring someone in to it. Someone like Wilson alone might not get it done, but since he needs to be added to Boston's 40, he could go in combination with someone else to bring Haren in.
Of course, this all depends on what everyone else is offering. But Haren represents an opportunity for the Red Sox to use two of their strengths in order to bring in a high-ceiling player: their financial flexibility, and the depth in their farm system. Boston shouldn't move their very top prospects in a deal for a one-year pitcher, but using some of the lower-tier -- but still potentially valuable -- prospects in the system is something they should look into.