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Angels decline Haren's option. Wish the Cardinals could afford him

The Angels were unable to complete a trade involving former Cardinals hurler Dan Haren Friday evening, so the club instead declined his $15.5-million option which makes Haren a free agent.

As much as I was disappointed that the Cardinals signed mediocre hurler Jake Westbrook to a contract extension a couple of months ago, I am much more disappointed now.

Westbrook is going to make $8.5 million in 2013 with a $9.5-million mutual option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout. Would I prefer to see the Cardinals give Haren a three-year contract for $36 million instead of potentially paying Westbrook $18 million for two years? There is no doubt about it.

Haren is 28-23 with a 3.67 ERA over the last two years with 334 strikeouts and 71 walks. Westbrook is 25-20 with a 4.32 ERA over the same stretch with 105 strikeouts and 62 bases on balls.

The Birds could afford such a deal because they'll be shedding the contract of Carlos Beltran in 2014 in favor of prospects Oscar Tavares and Matt Adams who will make close to the major league minimum. Plus, there is probably a 50-50 chance ace Chris Carpenter will retire after next season when his contract expires. That not only would create not only financial flexibility but also a need for a veteran hurler.

Haren, of course, is under no obligation to sign with the Cardinals. But he did say when Arizona put him on the block a couple of seasons ago that a return to St. Louis would be one of his preferred destinations. And if the Birds would have at least explored the Haren option, I feel pretty confident that Westbrook would still be available when the Haren matter was settled.

Unfortunately, it appears I will left to drool over the prospect of a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Haren, and some combination of Jamie Garcia, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal in the fourth and fifth slots.