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Friday, December 14, 2007
Updated: December 15, 10:34 AM ET
D-backs bolster pitching corps, acquire Haren; send Valverde to Houston

Associated Press

Dan Haren is off the market, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have an imposing 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

Keith Law on
A's-D-backs trade

Friday's trade between the Athletics and Diamondbacks gives Arizona a No. 2 starter in Dan Haren and Oakland some solid prospects with which to rebuild, writes Keith Law. Blog Insider

The NL West champions acquired Haren from the rebuilding Oakland Athletics and traded major league saves leader Jose Valverde to Houston in separate swaps involving 12 players Friday.

Oakland also sent right-hander Connor Robertson to Arizona and received six players: left-handers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith; infielder Chris Carter; and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez.

The Diamondbacks got reliever Chad Qualls, infielder Chris Burke and right-hander Juan Gutierrez from the Astros.

Haren, the AL starter in the All-Star Game this year, joins a Diamondbacks rotation that includes 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb. Arizona also hopes to get Randy Johnson back from injury next year.

"I'm extremely excited," Haren said. "Just having spent a couple of spring trainings in Phoenix, me and my wife really love the town. There's just so much to do, and the team is obviously on the rise -- a lot of young guys. It looks like a fun team to be on."

Haren, who was 15-9 with a 3.07 ERA this year, became the first elite starter to switch teams this offseason. That could set off a flurry of moves by other teams in search of pitching.

The Minnesota Twins are listening to trade offers for two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who can become a free agent after next season. Baltimore is thought to be shopping lefty Erik Bedard.

At 27, Haren has won 43 games the past three seasons and has two years remaining on his contract with a club option for 2010. He is due salaries of $4 million in 2008 and $5.5 million in 2009. The 2010 option is for $6.75 million with a $250,000 buyout -- quite a bargain these days for a pitcher with his pedigree.

"He's a guy who pitches a lot of innings, high quality innings," Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes said. "He's a good athlete so I think he'll adapt well to the National League. He has the mentality of an ace. Obviously we have some starters with some very good resumes in our rotation. It's an important foundation."

A's general manager Billy Beane said he expects his team to take its lumps in 2008, and he all but ruled out signing indicted home run king Barry Bonds to be the designated hitter across San Francisco Bay.

"Gosh," Beane said, chuckling when asked about the 43-year-old former Giants slugger. "We'll deal with this trade. We're trying to get younger. We're trying to put together a club that continues to get better over the next couple of years."

With new general manager Ed Wade, the Astros have been one of baseball's busiest teams this fall. They traded five players to Baltimore on Wednesday for star shortstop Miguel Tejada, 10 days after signing free-agent second baseman Kaz Matsui to a $16.5 million, three-year contract.

Valverde, who had 47 saves in 54 chances this year, takes over as Houston's closer from inconsistent Brad Lidge, a 2005 All-Star who was traded to Philadelphia on Nov. 7 in a five-player deal that sent speedy outfielder Michael Bourn to the Astros.

"We're excited about Valverde. He had 47 saves last year and a lot of those saves were one-run games. This is something we worked on for a long time," Wade said. "When we pursued Valverde and were able to bring it to closure, it made all the sense in the world for us to do it. This brings us closer to being a champion."

Byrnes said Qualls, Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena were all candidates to replace Valverde as closer.

The trades were "very much connected," Byrnes explained, and his club's talented farm system made everything possible.

"One of the hesitations of the Oakland deal was giving up depth, which is invaluable," Byrnes said. "I think the Houston deal brought back some of that depth."

Haren quickly emerged as the ace of the A's staff this season following the departure of Barry Zito to San Francisco. The right-hander set career bests for wins, strikeouts (192) and ERA. His ERA was the third-lowest in the American League.

But the A's missed the playoffs after reaching the AL championship series the previous year. Oakland (76-86) had its streak of winning seasons end at eight, and went 9-17 in September.

Beane is always open-minded about his low-budget franchise and had said he would listen to offers for Haren, Joe Blanton or other pitchers such as closer Huston Street. In 2004, Beane traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in a three-day span -- and Haren came to the A's from St. Louis in the Mulder deal.

"We had a significant amount of interest in Dan, as you would expect," Beane said.

The trade came three days after Haren's wife, Jessica, gave birth to their first child, son Rhett. He arrived a bit early.

"It's just been a whirlwind of a week," Haren said. "Having the baby was kind of unexpected at this time. I've probably slept a total of four hours since she went into labor."

The Diamondbacks were in what Beane called "aggressive" discussions regarding Haren all along.

"They were absolutely prepared from the start and were willing to talk about a number of young players," Beane said. "We talked about almost everybody in their organization at some point in the process."

While Beane said, "I don't think I'm ever going to concede anything," he knows 2008 could be a tough year. The A's recently learned that starting pitcher Chad Gaudin could need hip surgery, and the club still isn't sure whether oft-injured Rich Harden will ever return to full strength. Also, six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez is recovering from three offseason operations.

"We need to get back to the point where we put together a club that has a chance at a long, sustained run," Beane said, pointing to the 1999 season. "This trade was the first major step toward doing that."

Byrnes' busy day probably completed his team's 25-man roster. That means the Diamondbacks have all but abandoned attempts to re-sign veteran first baseman Tony Clark, a clubhouse leader.