MILWAUKEE — The Cubs filled a big hole in their rotation, acquiring crafty veteran pitcher Dan Haren from the Miami Marlins during the final hours before Friday’s trade deadline.
For essentially a two-month rental, the Cubs gave up two prospects from Double-A Tennessee — pitcher Ivan Pineyro and infielder Elliot Soto — without blowing up their farm system.
The Marlins also kicked in $500,000 to close the deal. Haren is owed about $3.6 million for the rest of this season, with the Cubs also responsible for up to around $1 million in performance bonuses.
Haren has gone 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts this season, taking advantage of Miami’s defense and the spacious dimensions at Marlins Park. His flyball rate — almost 50 percent this year — should be an issue when it’s hot and the wind’s blowing out at Wrigley Field.
Still, the Cubs definitely needed someone to eat up innings and keep the team competitive during what looks like a push for the National League’s second wild card spot. Haren will likely make his first start in a Cubs uniform next week against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Haren’s entertaining Twitter account — @ithrow88 — makes fun of his diminishing velocity, but he can still get by with his guts, experience and intelligence.
“His stuff isn’t what it once was — you can just look at his Twitter handle and figure that out,” said Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations who almost acquired Haren from the Los Angeles Angels for Carlos Marmol after the 2012 season — until the deal collapsed over concerns about Haren’s medical records.
“But he’s just a master at knowing how to pitch,” Epstein said. “He’s fearless. He attacks with what he has. He knows the hitters really well. He understands pitching. He knows how to shape pitches a lot of different ways and pitch to both sides of the plate.
“He knows how to file an advanced report. He knows how to read swings. He’s kind of an artist out there at this point.”
Haren is far more accomplished than the cast of characters the Cubs have used in the fifth-starter spot. Among active pitchers, he ranks in the top 10 in innings pitched (2361.1), games started (369), wins (149), strikeouts (1,969) and WHIP (1.18). He is 35 years old and positioned to become a free agent after this season.
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“This guy has been pitching forever,” said Miguel Montero, who caught Haren during his two All-Star seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008 and 2009. “He can actually help our bullpen and our starters, (especially) our young guys. He’s throwing 86 (mph) and he’s still getting people out. So he’s got to (know) something about pitching.”
The Cubs acquired Pineyro from the Washington Nationals two years ago in the Scott Hairston trade. The 23-year-old right-hander has gone 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 19 starts for the Smokies this season.
The Cubs drafted Soto out of Creighton University in the 15th round of the 2010 draft. He will turn 26 next month and had been hitting .275 with zero homers and a .388 on-base percentage through 88 games at Tennessee.
Haren certainly wasn’t the biggest name out there — and looked like more of a fallback position — but the Cubs couldn’t risk giving away games almost every fifth day.
“He competes,” Montero said. “That’s the main thing. He knows that he doesn’t have the greatest stuff that he used to (have). So in order to survive, he has to pitch.”