When They Pull a Knife, You Pull a Gun

UPDATE 4:56 CST: One of our readers tipped us to this fantastic piece on Rich Harden's mechanics (with video) by Carlos Gomez at The Hardball Times. Can't recommend it enough....


I've had a little time to digest the trade since my initial reaction and a little time to actually write about it now. I don't think there's too many warm-blooded Cubs fan out there who aren't happy about the deal...other than maybe a Chicken Little or two that are never happy with anything the Cubs do.

We all know the risks. Rich Harden has all the durability of a roll of toilet paper caught in a rainstorm. He was called up half way through the 2003 season, proceeded to make 31 starts in 2004 and has battled injuries ever since. The list is too long and complicated for me to dive into, so we'll wait for the good Dr. Hecht to chime in on that side of the trade. Harden's 13 starts this year are his highest total since 2005 and he spent almost a month of this year already on the disabled list. But in those 13 starts, he's gone 5-1
with a 2.34 ERA, 10.75 K/9, 2.97 K:BB and 0.58 HR/9.

He once had a fastball that could hit 100, although he seems to have dialed it back a bit this year. He compliments that fastball with a fantastic change-up and that's pretty much it. He'll occasionally throw a slider in there, but seems to have scrapped it for the most part this season. A quick and dirty comparison with some of the best in the game using career numbers:

Name ERA
ERA+
K/9
K:BB
HR/9
Harden 3.42 127 8.69 2.25 0.68
Santana 3.21 141 9.38 3.76 0.99
Sabathia 3.83 115 7.45 2.54 0.85
Peavy 3.26 121 9.01 3.14 0.91
Oswalt 3.19 137 7.44 3.61 0.77
Zambrano 3.37 132 7.69 1.90 0.72
Webb 3.24 142 7.31 2.46 0.63
Beckett 3.73 116 8.54 2.96 0.96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not bad company to be in and let us not forget that he's still just 26 years old. He signed a four-year extension in 2005 that includes a team option of $7 million for 2009 with no buyout. But, even if the Cubs decline that team option, they would still retain his rights as he won't reach six years of service time until the 2009 season. And of course, there's little chance they wouldn't pick up the option unless his arm literally blows up this year.

The "throw-in" of Chad Gaudin though is what makes this deal go from good to great. I'll let Buster Olney take it (sidebar):

On Sunday evening -- the same night when word broke that the Brewers
had worked out a deal for CC Sabathia -- Hendry indicated to Beane for
the first time that he would make Gallagher available in a Harden deal,
but it would create a problem: If Gallagher was traded, the Cubs
wouldn't have the kind of depth they needed to deal with an injury.


"Let me call you back," Beane said.
Beane had an idea. He could fill Hendry's need for depth by
adding veteran swingman Chad Gaudin in the trade. He phoned Hendry back
on Monday night with the suggestion. "That could work," Hendry said,
and the two general managers began piecing together other parts of the
trade.

Okay, Gaudin isn't special and his stuff isn't nearly as electric as Sean Gallagher, but he is just 25 years old. His Rotoworld page seems to indicate he'll be eligible for free agency in 2011, but he entered 2008 with 3.044 (3 years and 44 days) of service time, which by my calculations makes him eligible to be a free agent after 2010. Either way, the Cubs have his rights for a few years. And for 2008, which after all is what this trade is all about, he's a good bet to equal or surpass the outputs of Gallagher or Sean Marshall. He'll start his Cubs career in the bullpen, but adds another arm that can move to the rotation if needed this year and can compete for a rotation job in subsequent years.

The Cubs didn't get off cheap though. Sean Gallagher had the makings of a top of the rotation starter. Maybe not quite ace material, but someone who could put together a couple of All-Star seasons. At just age 22, he was already getting major league hitters to look silly this season, albeit with all the consistency you'd expect of a 22-year old. Matt Murton and Eric Patterson were decent players with no place on the 2008 team and no place on the 2009 team either. I'm not sure where Patterson will fit in with the A's right now, other than to make Mark Ellis possibly available. Murton though should get a shot at left field as long as Frank Thomas is on the disabled list. Jack Cust will likely move back to a full-time DH I expect and then it'll be between Murton and Emil Brown. Josh Donaldson was the supplemental pick we received for Juan Pierre in the 2007 draft and someone our very own Arizona Phil ranked as the number one Cubs prospect to start the year. He struggled out of the gate this season in Peoria, but had started to turn things around ia bit in June. So now that Juan Pierre for Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre and Reynel Pinto deal has evolved to Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, Reynel Pinto, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Sean Gallagher for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin - phew, so much better!

It's the proverbial win-win trade scenario for the Cubs. The current starting staff already had the best ERA in the NL and they just added someone who would top all of them in that category. And just in case Harden does go down, the Cubs got his likely replacement in Chad Gaudin in the same deal. Yeah, they did lose some good players, some of them may even end up being great players, but none that were going to provide the impact and game-changing abilities that Rich Harden can in 2008.

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Comments

While you always hate to see potential stars get traded away, gotta love the club's aggressiveness here in going for the whole enchilada. Get ready for Sutcliffe II - this time, it's personal!

Sutcliffe 2: Electric Bugaloo?

+1 to Doug! Nice reference!!

The list is too long and complicated for me to dive into, so we'll wait for the good Dr. Hecht to chime in on that side of the trade.

I swear to God, if his analysis involves "genetic looseness" I'll scream.

would you prefer genetic looseness or tightness?

the guy pitches like a catapult with his upper body and falls/drives off the mound...he dont "fall" off the mound recklessly or anything (like van burren), though.

still, he's pretty violent with his upper body even if he's not pitching across his body.

If Harden goes on the DL, do we get to put Sabathia in the morgue?

That's the Chicago way!

The way I look at it: Sabathia is Milwaukee's Zambrano, Harden is our Sheets.

Gaudin doesn't make this a great deal. He makes this a safe deal.

I won't be surprised if in the near future Gallagher is an Ace.

I will be surprised if in the near future Harden is not on the DL.

So, here's hoping he's done with DL this year, our Pennant Year. If Harden stays healthy I think we win it all.

In case you missed it, syndicated sportswriter Mike Nadel's ironic column posted yesterday afternoon.

http://www.bentoneveningnews.com/articles/2008/07/...

http://www.sacbee.com/100/story/1069600.html

Sac Bee says they're both RiverCats now.

"Okay, Gaudin isn't special and his stuff isn't nearly as electric as Sean Gallagher, but he is just 28 years old."

Gaudin is actually only 25. Born in March of '83.

bah...thanks...and fixed.

Reason #25 why I dislike our town's sportwriters;

http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/bas...

Morrisey claims the key difference between the Sutcliffe trade and this one is that "Sutcliffe was a horse." Yeah, he was - for the rest of that season. Then he broke down in '85 and never fully regained his previous form - you cannot view trades honestly if you ignore the past history of your own stated examples. Sheesh.

How about Phil Rogers starting a whisper campaign of "Harden's a bad guy" before he even gets to town? "Another scout said he did not view Harden as the next best pitcher available after Sabathia because of "makeup" and health questions..."

http://tinyurl.com/5pjxmr

How to write a Chicago baseball column:

1. Invent straw man.
2. Make up or cherry-pick a stat.
3. Have some fun with anonymous sources.
4. Complain that everybody talks about/praises/panics about the Cubs too much.
5. Ozzie Guillen's a nut!
6. Repeat.

Top of the rotation starter? Gallagher will never be more than a 3 on a good team.

and the Brewers and Rays will never be good teams, right Chad?

misquoted yet again

Carlos Zambrano's health tips for Rich Harden:

* Eat your bananas
* Dictate your email
* Don't break bats over your knee
* Don't punch random items in the dugout
* Don't punch thick-headed catchers

... ?

* Never-ever-ever-never-ever be caught pitching with a towel in the Left Field Bullpen

Only slightly less known is:

* Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Vizinni!

I don't know - Gallagher could be a real star a few years down the road. Most of the scouts agreed that his stuff was "electric," and considering the kid's only 22, you'd have to assume that there's at least an equal chance he's going to be quite good soon.

Chad:
Top of the rotation starter? Gallagher will never be more than a 3 on a good team.

No way, bro. He's real solid. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gallagher represent Oakland on the 2010 American League All-star team.

I see him as a John Maine. 12 - 16 wins a year with and era of 3.80 to 4.20. Good stuff but nothing earth shattering.

Why is it that when we have discussions like this, the person who predicts success gets laughed off when the player fails, but the person who predicts failure gets crucified when the player succeeds?

Seems like it, anyway...

Gallagher - see Juan Cruz

There's not a single point of comparison between the two. Not a single one.

be interesting to see what gallagher does now that's he's not working with rothschild.

roths has been cruicial in gallagher's development and mechanics.

he really tightened up his weird/open motion and its led to a more controlled gallagher. he really helped him develop his changeup/fastball location...taking those raw tools and reigning them in. dont think he ever needed help with his curve...its part of why he was so damn promising. he had the fastball tools...he had a developing changeup, but he already had a solid secondary with his curve.

he's not done developing, but it'll be interesting to see what oakland's coaches will do with him. control of his fastball is pretty key. he's come a long way from the kid that just thought he could throw everything past everyone and destroy people's brains with his curve making them swing at something they couldn't hit.

Rothschild actually told Gallagher to go with a slider that comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and throw his curve less.

 

roths has done a lot of work with him since 05 trying to get him do a ton of things...last spring (07) the focus was control.

it doesnt show at all in his 04 numbers...or 05 numbers, really...but he was REALLY wide open with his motion and just relied on blowing everything past everyone. yes, i know its "weird" to think of a 90-93mph pitcher "blowing stuff by" guys, but we are talking about rookie league and A-ball here...and that's great stuff, especially if you already come pre-equiped with a curve.

he didnt have much of a future just doing that, though...well, not a stable one. command has always been a struggle for gallagher no matter what the numbers show.

intriguing, didn't think Rothschild worked much with the minor leaguers until they at least made it to spring training camp or the big league club, which would have been last season for Gallagher.

not that he's special with this...cuz others do it...but its not uncommon for roths to work with guys in the offseason or pre-season outside his capacity as the major league coach. it's not like he's wandering around on off-days to go to minor league camps in-season to work with guys or something...or that he was THE guy who worked with gallagher.

gallagher just speaks highly of him through the years and the work theyve done together in articles.

Just a couple years ago Gallagher dropped his slider because he said throwing it messed up his curve.

Dated 10/13/2007

When you talk about the things you’d been working on, what all does that entail aside from the development your slider?

SEAN GALLAGHER: As of right now, I’m actually throwing both of my breaking pitches. I’m back to throwing my curveball again. We decided I should probably keep my curveball instead of getting rid of it for now. I think I pretty much have those two pitches down; it’s just working on the mechanical aspect of everything that we were working on in Chicago with Larry (Rothschild).

How rusty, per se, was your curveball once you started throwing it again?

SEAN GALLAGHER: It was definitely a little rusty. I took probably two and a half weeks off, not throwing it at all and just going with the slider. But the curveball has been my pitch for a long time, so I think it’ll pick up again really quickly. I’ve still got it.

Are you pleased with the development of the slider?

SEAN GALLAGHER: It’s definitely come a long way since I first started throwing it. When I first started throwing it, it had a big, loopy, almost curveball-like break to it. Now it's actually smaller and tighter.

What reason did the Cubs give you when they asked you to start throwing a slider and put your curveball on the shelf?

SEAN GALLAGHER: I think it was more (to develop) a pitch that could feed off my fastball in the big leagues instead of my curveball, which has a tendency to change my arm slot. They want me to be able to have a pitch that comes out of my arm slot the same and look like my fastball until the last second.

anyway, I saw quite a few curves during his big league stint and quite a few sliders. He has good control over his curve, I think he fooled more batters with his slider.

my personal observation... 

While I don't believe Beane's a genius regarding talent, I think he knows a good pitching prospect when he sees one (his track record supports that contention) - if what Hendry has been telling us is true, Beane would not discuss Harden unless Gallagher was in the mix. So has Beane been snookered, all of a sudden? I don't think so, and it would be foolhardy to suggest otherwise at this time. Give the man some credit, he's earned it.

"Jim Callis: [ ] It amuses me that there's a lot of analysis on the blogosphere saying that the A's must know Harden is about to get hurt again, or else Billy Beane wouldn't have made the trade. Beane is a tremendous GM, but I swear, if Kenny Williams made a similar deal, he'd be getting killed for it."

http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=21390

because he has a track record of trading lemon pitchers. Mike Siratka, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy have thrown less than 160 IP combined after they were traded.

Edit: My bad it was 159 IP instead of 100. McCarthy threw 101 IP for Texas last year before going down in July and not thrown since, Garcia gave the Phillies 58 IP before needing TJS.

Just nitpicking, but Freddy García had shoulder surgery, not Tommy John Surgery.

So any word on when Harden will pitch? Tomorrow? He last pitched Sunday.

Yesterday they were saying Harden would start either Friday or Saturday.

Anybody else catch Hendry's interview on XM with Dibs. Said he'd been talking with Oakland about Harden for 2-3 weeks but Beane was insisting on Gallagher. Once Hendry explained to Beane that Gallagher was going to be the Cubs key middle/long relief guy that Beane then brought Gaudin into the mix to fill that role. From there the details worked themselves out rather quick. Also said that Cub's were trying for CC but simply didn't have the corner outfielder/infielder prospect that would be MLB ready next season.

Wonder if Matt Wieters, had the Cubs pulled the trigger on him instead of Josh Vitters in last year's draft, would have done the trick for CC?

Wieters is a Boras guy -- ended up with a $6 million signing bonus. Does he have a no-trade clause in his contract with the Orioles?

Don't recall how much Vitters was signed for.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/10469...

Harden to pitch Friday or Saturday.

Even if Harden were to break down, he'd probably could be brought back as a reliever. The A's did that last year and had very good early results. He eventually went back to the DL, but he seems to be healthier this year.

Either way, it's a very good deal for the Cubs. I'm going to miss Gallagher; I've been one of his biggest fans since he got drafted and I saw some Jake Peavy flashes during his brief major league Cubs career. However, you can't argue with getting Harden and Gaudin at that very low price.

Here's to a stellar Cubs career for Rich Harden.

Hear hear!

The best part about dealing with Oakland in this trade, if Gallagher does turn into a top shelf starting pitcher in a couple of years, the Cubs can always trade again to get him back or sign him when Oakland lets him go as a free agent!

True that.

or trade the draft picks we get for Harden if he leaves via free agency back to the A's and get Gallagher back in 3-4 years.

the tribune cubs poll...often a source of utter stupidity and "off-the-cuff casual fan reaction" voting got something along the lines i can agree with...

Cubs get Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from Oakland, give up Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher and minor leaguer Josh Donaldson. You like the deal?

Absolutely -- They filled a huge need and didn't give up much (10845 responses)

83.3%

---

don't agree with the "didnt give up much" but like most cubs polls they tend to throw in a uselessly polarizing statment along with their option to pick that may or may not fully mean what you vote for...but it's the "best" one that fits.

on XM this afternoon, someone who covers the A's said that the "makeup" issues with Harden came from the end of last year when he was rehabbing from his shoulder strain problems and the A's wanted him to come off the DL sometime in september (supposedly on their end to showcase him for an offseason trade) and Harden didn't want to because the A's were out of contention and he didn't want to have a season end setback. Basically he was able to pitch 2-3 weeks in April and 2 weeks in June/July. That was his entire 2007 season in a nutshell.

Not sure what to make of this but it sounded like the A's would have parted with Harden as soon as his trade value was sufficient to make a reasonable deal and they were hoping it was going to be last offseason moving both Haren and Harden. Without Harden pitching at seasons end, they had to wait until mid-season this year.

Most of Harden's 2007 injury issues were called a strained right shoulder. I haven't gotten much research in yet but he didn't have a rotator cuff tear diagnosed and a strain indicates a muscle injury. He missed the season from 4-23-07 to 6-22-07 (2 months), then went back on the DL for the same problem two weeks later, ultimately being transferred to the 60 day DL on 8-22-07 which ended his season. I suspect it was just before the end of August when he and Billy Beane may have disagreed upon trying for a return in September, leading to move him to the 60 day DL. It's hard sorting out these pieces in such a delayed manner though.

Here's Harden's 2007 DL data:

October 08, 2007 Removed from 60-day DL
August 22, 2007 Transferred to 60-day DL
July 12, 2007 Placed on 15-day DL (Strained right shoulder)
July 12, 2007 Placed on 15-day DL (Strained right shoulder)
June 22, 2007 Recalled from minors rehab
June 22, 2007 Removed from 15-day DL
June 20, 2007 Sent to minors for rehabilitation
April 23, 2007 Placed on 15-day DL (Right shoulder strain)

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