Dan Haren pitched six-plus innings for his fourth victory in five starts… (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)
A month ago, Angels pitcher Dan Haren saw his career heading in one of two very distinct directions.
"Going into the off-season," the 32-year-old right-hander said in an email Thursday, "I thought I was going to be a free agent or come back to the Angels."
Most likely, neither will happen. The Angels are actively shopping Haren in hopes of netting some kind of return in a trade before he becomes a free agent. Several teams, including the Boston Red Sox, are believed to be interested.
The Angels are also aggressively seeking to trade underachieving and overpaid outfielder Vernon Wells, who is owed $42 million over the next two years, in hopes of clearing payroll to re-sign free-agent right fielder Torii Hunter.
The Angels must decide by Friday whether to make a $13.3-million "qualifying offer" to Hunter, who hit .313 with 16 home runs and 92 runs batted in last season. Such an offer wouldn't guarantee Hunter's return, but would net the Angels draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
The Angels have until 9 p.m. Friday to either exercise Haren's $15.5-million option for 2013 or decline it and pay a $3.5-million buyout.
They faced the same decision Wednesday with Ervin Santana and traded the right-hander to the Kansas City Royals along with $1 million -- the cost to buy out Santana's $13-million option -- for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk.
So, Haren, who went 12-13 with a 4.33 earned run average last season and was slowed by lower-back tightness in the first half, sees the writing on the wall.
"I have had just a bit of dialogue with the Angels about my situation, but I’m kind of getting the feeling that I'll be traded," he wrote. "I have no specifics on teams, but that's the vibe I'm getting. It's a little bit disappointing that I won't get to pick where I want to go, but I'm the one who signed on for the option year."
The Angels would likely pay at least $3.5 million of Haren's contract in a trade. He would be attractive for a number of teams because he has an excellent track record and would be on a one-year deal -- and a team trading for him wouldn't have to compete for him on the free-agent market.
The Angels have two starters, Jered Weaver ($16.2 million) and C.J. Wilson ($11.5 million), under contract for 2013, and they plan to make a strong bid to re-sign free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke, who could command a deal of at least five years and $110 million and who is expected to draw significant interest from the Dodgers and the American League West rival Texas Rangers.
If Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto can't trade Haren by Friday, it's doubtful the team will exercise the option. But Haren reiterated Thursday that he would be willing to return on a one-year deal that was "fair" for both sides.
"Jerry is really smart, so I'm sure he's got something up his sleeve to replenish the rotation, but I was definitely hoping to be back," Haren said. "I think the cost of replacing me as just the No. 4 starter, if they got Zack or someone else, wouldn't be too great, and it would only be for one year."
One intriguing possibility for Dipoto, and one he could be exploring, is the expansion of a Haren deal with the Red Sox to include Wells in return for pitcher John Lackey, the former Angel who missed all of 2012 because of elbow surgery.
The deal would exchange one bad contract for another -- Lackey, who went 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in an injury-plagued 2011 -- is owed $30.5 million over the next two years, though the Angels would likely have to send a significant chunk of money to Boston in such a trade.
But it would give the pitching-thin and outfield-rich Angels a player who might actually help them, and would clear payroll and an outfield spot for Hunter, a far superior player to Wells, who hit .218 with 25 homers and 66 RBIs in 2011 and .230 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 2012.
Wells, a pull hitter, would also be a better fit in Fenway Park for a Red Sox team that could use a left fielder.
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