D-backs bolster pitching corps, acquire Haren; send Valverde to Houston

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

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

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

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

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

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.