When They Pull a Knife, You Pull a Gun
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:
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.
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
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.