Dan Haren throwing underhand to ease the pain on his broken body

So much for Dan Haren as cheap low-risk investment. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Washington Nationals have a one-year, $13 million deal in place for the right-handed starter, pending a physical.

The words “pending a physical” may not hold more significance this offseason than they do with the Nationals reported deal with Haren. Haren’s former team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, had a Haren trade with the Chicago Cubs for Carlos Marmol fall apart early in November on account of the 32-year old’s health. Despite conflicting initial reports, David Kaplan of CSN Chicago eventually indicated that it was, in fact, health concerns that killed the deal:

“…a long-time AL source who has watched Haren over the past several seasons confirmed to me that medical questions were the main reason the trade fell apart, with the Cubs having serious concerns over Haren’s back stiffness that sidelined him for a part of the 2012 season. Also, hip issues and a noticeable drop in his velocity that forced him to pitch differently than when he was a dominant power pitcher.”

Both Haren and his agent refuted that report, stating that he was perfectly healthy. Whatever the case, Haren was not right last season.

The Angels declined to exercise Haren’s $15.5 million option for 2013, thus paying him $3.5 million on a buyout. It will be a financial gain for Haren is he comes out of the physical with a passing grade. If the health questions are behind him then is an excellent pick up by the Nationals, who would feature a starting staff of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Haren, and Ross Detwiler. It would be safe to assume that the Nationals have effectively removed themselves from the race for Zack Greinke by signing Haren.

Haren struggled with recurring back stiffness through 2012, hitting the disabled list in July and missing more time in August. The right-hander suffered a drop in velocity on his fastball and cutter, with both pitches averaging under 90 mph for the first time in his career. A dip in his ground ball rate and spike in his HR/FB rate helped contribute to some un-Haren like numbers in 2012: 4.33 ERA; 4.24 FIP; 4.00 xFIP. Some of the durability issues and velocity drop could probably be traced back to his workload since becoming a full-time starter in 2005. Haren has pitched at least 216 innings in seven straight seasons before working 176.2 last year.

If everything checks out with Haren’s health, then the Nationals may have just secured themselves one of the National League’s most imposing starting rotations.