Sunday, January 04, 2015

Dan Haren owes baseball nothing

Or does he?
I have been having this internal debate about Dan Haren's position about pitching for the Marlins for about two weeks now. Every time I get a handle on how I feel about how he is handling this trade to the East Coast, my emotions turn the other way.
We can all understand Dan Haren's desire to stay close to his family on the West Coast and he signed his free agent contract out there to facilitate his desire. Family is a noble thing. I once turned down a sure $160 grand job in Georgia because I did not want to leave my daughter behind. I get it. In fact, I should get it more than most.
One of the main differences in my situation and Haren's is that I was not under contract. I did not sign a piece of paper in good faith that said I would perform XYZ expectations in return for a financial gain. Haren did sign such a piece of paper.
He has made perfect use of the collective bargaining agreement to earn himself $71 million in his career playing baseball. He is signed another $10 million to do so again in 2015. His contract did not include a no-trade agreement although there is some murkiness as to what was promised him when he signed.
In fact, Haren has earned $35 million in the last three years being a less than league-average pitcher. In this age of pitching, his FIP has been over four for three straight years. But that's not really fair as he is more or less getting paid what he couldn't make when he was younger and was really worth something as a pitcher.
He has already told the Marlins (according to the linked story) that he doesn't want to play there. He is basically asking them to trade him back out West. All this speculation has caused to put up a poll on where he will end up. The biggest choice so far is that he will retire. Really?
Has he made enough money to throw away $10 million? For all his lack of success the last three years, he is a strike-throwing machine who has made thirty-plus starts ten years in a row. That kind of durability will get you a good contract somewhere on the open market once his obligation for 2015 is over.
Would he really leave all that money on the table? If the Marlins cannot, or will not trade him, would he just quit? Or would he sit out a year? Why can't he just rent out a bungalow in Miami for a season and move his family there? He certainly has the money. It is a temporary inconvenience for the family en route to millions of dollars of potential earnings.
The decision would seem to be easy. Miami has a spacious ballpark. One can see Haren building back his reputation as a starter and freeing him to play his hand in 2016.
Let's think about Miami's position for a moment. They already have their $10 million from the Dodgers. They got paid whether Haren pitches for them or not.  If Haren sits home with his millions, they still have their money and won't have to shell it out. If he plays for them, they can pencil in 30 starts, which is still something.  Or they can trade him and get value knowing that a trade partner would basically pay Haren nothing to pitch for them.
What would you do if you were the Marlins? Frankly, I would call his bluff. If you want to throw away $10 million smackers, have yourself a nice day. The collective bargaining agreement between the players and the teams is pretty fair. And the fact is that he is under contract.
So what happens if Haren sits out the year? What should baseball do then? Should he be allowed to play 2016 when he effectively broke his contract? I don't know the answer to that and what the provisions are for that circumstance.
What I do know is that I am no closer to resolving this moral dilemma for myself. I know it doesn't matter what *I* think. But I am sure that I am not the only one thinking about Haren's situation.
Where I am, basically, is where I started. Dan Haren has made his millions and owes no man anything and can walk away if he wants to. He owes baseball nothing except for that contract he signed in good faith. That contract and the fact that baseball has been the means of his family having the lifestyle they lead swing me over to the other side of the moral reading.
Thus, my conclusion is wishy-washy. Dan Haren owes baseball nothing, but yet again, he owes baseball everything.

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