When the season began, it seemed a “far gone” conclusion that the Los Angeles Angels would pick up Dan Haren’s $15.5 million option rather than pay $3.5 million to opt out of his salary for the 2013 season. However, the right-handed starter has struggled throughout 2012, and probably has more to do with the Angels being two games out of a Wild Card playoff spot than he’s been given credit.

Yes, part of his problems are likely connected to his lower back troubles, and he’s been much improved as of late, but this trend must be a little bit concerning:

… as is his strikeout rate which has declined in each of the last four seasons.

So, now, as what appears to be a disappointing 2012 for Los Angeles winds down, we receive this news from Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com:

A source familiar with the team’s thinking told me recently that he expects the Angels to cut ties with both [Ervin] Santana and Haren this offseason and focus their efforts on signing [Zack Greinke] to a multi-year extension.

Even as a 32-year-old with peripheral declines that should cause concern, Haren would become one of the more sought after free agent targets on the open market this winter.

An interesting scenario that could play out would see the Angels offer both Haren and Santana a $13 million qualifying offer on top of their buyouts in order to receive compensation if they sign elsewhere. If Haren were to accept, which seems unlikely, he’d actually end up making more money from the Angels than if they were to merely pick up his 2013 option.

Along with the usual  big budget contending suspects, I’d expect the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians to all show the type of interest in Haren that would garner a multi-year deal, with Santana perhaps being a consolation prize to the team that doesn’t land him. Of course, it’s all a bit of risky business for the Angels who could find themselves out on Haren, Santana and Greinke when all the dealing is done.

A rotation featuring Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards … and uh, Jerome Williams (?) and Barry Enright (?) is probably not what anyone would want in the increasingly competitive American League West Division.