The news that Dan Haren will be available this offseason isn't just an interesting rumor, here in St. Louis—it's an unwelcome reminder of a disastrous trade. Former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty made a lot of brilliant moves during his tenure with the team, but one of his final big deals just so happened to be the worst—his offseason acquisition of Mark Mulder in exchange for the Cardinals' top pitching and hitting prospects (and Kiko Calero.) It wasn't just a bad move in hindsight—some projections had 24-year-old Dan Haren set to outperform Mulder from the start, without even bringing Daric Barton or Calero into account.
As it turned out, they were right; Mulder's declining strikeout rate presaged the end of his career, while Haren turned into one of the game's most efficient starters. Now, after a 12-13 season that saw him allow 28 home runs in 177 innings, the Los Angeles Angels have to decide whether to pick up his $15.5 million option. And if they do, they'll have to decide whether to keep him.
Haren's had a drop in velocity of his own, so it's easy to understand the Angels' reticence. But even after last year he remains a good bet for whichever team ends up paying for his 2013 services. He's just one year removed from leading baseball with a K:BB ratio of 5.82, and his 2012 mark of 3.74 was ninth in the American League.
There's more to pitching than that, but Haren's peripherals suggest he's got another good season in him. If nothing else, they're certainly better than Mark Mulder's were in 2004...