PHOENIX – Arizona president Derrick Hall has confirmed that the New York Yankees are among "a few teams" in discussions with the Diamondbacks about a possible trade for right-hander Dan Haren.
But Hall told The Associated Press on Friday night that there is no front-runner and other clubs have made offers that are "of at least equal value" to what the Yankees are proposing. He said no trade is imminent.
Haren has emerged as one of the most sought-after starters as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. He is in the second season of a four-year, $44.75 million contract with a club option for a fifth year.
Though their deep rotation has been a strength all season, the Yankees seem intent on trying to acquire a front-line starter. They came close to landing lefty ace Cliff Lee two weeks ago before Seattle traded him to AL West-leading Texas. Since then, 38-year-old New York lefty Andy Pettitte went down with a groin injury and is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-to-late August.
Sergio Mitre is set to take Pettitte's spot in the rotation — for now.
The Yankees, who have the best record in the majors, want to limit young right-hander Phil Hughes' innings this year and might be thinking about returning him to the bullpen in the postseason. Hughes flourished as a setup man last season and Joba Chamberlain has struggled in that role this year.
New York also could be concerned about starting A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez in pressure-packed games. Both have struggled badly at times this season. And the big-budget Yankees certainly don't want the best available pitchers on the trade market going to their top American League competitors.
Haren's name was off his locker and most of his gear was gone before Friday night's game against San Francisco, but it turned out to be a practical joke by his teammates.
Still, a deal might not be far behind as Arizona looks to build for the future and, although team officials insist that's not the goal, dump a significant portion of its payroll. Haren is due to make $12.75 million each of the next two seasons with a club option for $15.5 million in 2013. If the option is not picked up, Haren is due a $3.5 million buyout. His contract also includes a list of teams to whom he could veto any trade.
When asked about reports that Arizona was close to a deal with New York, Hall said via e-mail that, "They are one of a few that we are in discussions with." Then he went on to indicate the Yankees' offer wasn't the best the Diamondbacks had received.
Haren is 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA for the last-place Diamondbacks, but he entered Friday night tied with Florida's Josh Johnson for the NL lead in strikeouts at 141. Always among the best in strikeout-to-walk ratio, he has walked just 29 batters this season.
However, Haren also leads the majors in hits allowed (161) and is second in the NL to teammate Rodrigo Lopez in most home runs allowed (23).
It's an off year by Haren's standards. He is 86-70 with a 3.71 ERA for St. Louis, Oakland and Arizona.
The Diamondbacks acquired him from the Athletics in the offseason after Arizona finished with the NL's best record in 2007 and made a surprise run to the NL championship series. The pitching duo of Brandon Webb and Haren was supposed to be one of the most formidable in baseball. But the team has headed downhill, finishing last in the NL West in 2009 and mired there again this season. Webb hasn't pitched since the 2009 season opener because of a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.
Haren, on the other hand, has been among the game's most durable pitchers with at least 33 starts and 216 innings each of the past five seasons. He has made 21 starts this year and was fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting last season. Since he came to Arizona, he is 37-26 with a 3.56 ERA.
Haren's next scheduled start is Tuesday at Philadelphia.
AP Sports Writer Mike Fitzpatrick in New York contributed to this report.