Haren ends rumor-filled day as a free agent
After deal with Cubs falls through, Angels decline righty's option
Dan Haren experienced a crazy Friday -- which began with his rumored trade to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol, then finished with the Angels declining his 2013 option after the deal fell through -- the way most people did.Through social media. See, Haren has a Twitter account under a secret name. Not to tweet, just to follow. And he was glued to the phone late Friday afternoon, convincing himself that Chicago would be a good fit for a year, reaching out to Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to figure out what went wrong and then being stunned to hear he would instead be a free agent starting Saturday. "I don't even know what to think, really," Haren said in a phone interview with MLB.com late Friday night, moments after his roller-coaster day was finally over. "This day has been one of the most anxious days of my life, definitely of my baseball career. I've been glued to my phone all day. I've tried to stay as busy as I could, but the fact of the matter is I was trying to keep up with what was going on." The Angels tried all week to trade Haren, but in the end declined his $15.5 million option for 2013, buying him out for $3.5 million and setting him off into the free-agent market now that the exclusive negotiating window is over. Hours earlier, they also decided not to tender veteran outfielder Torii Hunter a $13.3 million qualifying offer, which means they won't get Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Both players badly want to return to the Angels, and have said they'd do so at a discounted rate, but Dipoto admitted that the chances of that happening aren't very good. "Anything is possible; I can't say anything is likely," Dipoto said. "But all doors remain open." Dipoto seemed to be on the verge of a swap for Haren with the Cubs. Marmol reportedly told a publication in the Dominican Republic he was waiving his limited no-trade clause to join the Angels, several media outlets reported that the deal was almost done, and a source told MLB.com that the two sides were "headed in that direction." But ultimately the deal fell through. Now, with Haren a free agent and Ervin Santana traded Wednesday to the Royals, the Angels are left with only Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson from their 2012 rotation, making it all the more important to re-sign coveted free agent Zack Greinke. "We're not isolated on Zack Greinke as a stand-alone," Dipoto said. "There are a lot of pitchers out there on the open market right now, and there are a lot of pitchers that can be accessed in different ways. We'll keep an open mind to all of them. ... We have a great deal of interest in pursing the potential of bringing [Greinke] back, but there's a lot that has to happen in between now and Opening Day next year that will define whether that's going to happen or not." Haren, one of baseball's best and most durable pitchers from 2005-11, went into this past season believing his 2013 option was a formality. But the uncharacteristically rough season that ensued -- with a career-high 4.33 ERA, an eight-year-low 176 2/3 innings pitched and lingering back pain -- has him stepping into the free-agent market and likely leaving an Angels team he badly wanted to play for next season. "Of course I wanted to be back with these guys," Haren said. "Weaver's one of my best friends, a lot of guys I've grown very close to. But when it comes down to it, it's a business, and Jerry can't just sign Torii back because the fans love Torii, and he can't sign me back because we go back to our Arizona days and Jerry likes me as a guy. There's a payroll, we didn't achieve our goals last year, and when it comes down to it, that's why all these decisions have to be made." All along, Dipoto was open with Haren, whom he traded to the Angels while serving as interim GM of the D-backs in July 2010. Earlier this week, the two met at Angel Stadium, where Dipoto mapped out exactly what he was thinking -- that he would try to trade him this week, and if he couldn't get a deal done, he'd buy out his contract and let him be a free agent. Then, at about 5:15 p.m. PT, reports starting buzzing about a deal to the Cubs being imminent, and Haren began warming himself up to the idea of going to the Windy City. "After my wife and I had talked it through," Haren said, "we had really sold ourselves on how fun it would be for a year." But then, less than an hour later, the deal began to unravel, social media went crazy once more and Haren became eager to learn his fate. So he shot a text to Dipoto, who told him a deal had not yet been finalized. At about 8 p.m. PT, Dipoto called Haren, telling him the deal to the Cubs was off, that he was still poring through his options and that he would call him back in an hour, when the deadline came. Haren waited some more, social media went quiet, and then, at 9:05, Dipoto called Haren with the final news: His option had been declined. "I don't know what went on on his end, but I knew he wasn't going to make any quick decisions," Haren said. "I had the feeling that it was going to go on throughout the day, and it definitely did. I knew the deadline was today. My agent was in town and we were kind of going through it together. Like I said, it was a very anxious day for me, for my wife, just not knowing where our next city would be. I thought for sure it would be somewhere else. I thought for sure I'd know today where I'd be playing next year, but that's obviously not the case." Haren has been lounging in his Southern California home for most of the offseason. Earlier, he went to Cabo San Lucas for a couple of days. And later in the winter, Haren, his wife, his 4-year-old son and his 2-year-old daughter are planning a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas. "I wish I was going tomorrow," Haren said, "just to get away from things." But free agency awaits.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.