I just want to say thanks to Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry for proving me wrong and getting Pitcher Rich Harden from the Oakland A's for next to nothing way before the trading deadline. I was surprised that Hendry was able to pull off the move so quickly after the Milwaukee Brewers acquired C.C. Sabathia, but not as surprised at how little the Cubs gave up to get him.
First off, Harden can be a front of the rotation guy. That is, when he's healthy. That's unfortunately been the knock on Harden throughout his major league career. Harden has been placed on the disabled list 6 times in his 6 years in the majors. One can say the bright spot has been that he's had zero surgeries during those trips. Of course, before last year, the same could have been said for Mark Prior and look how well that turned out. That's what frightens me the most I guess. Harden is very similar to Prior. When he's on and healthy, he's lights out. But at what cost? Can you guarantee that he will be healthy for the rest of this season and during the next, which the Cubs have an option to pick up at a cheap 7 million? If you can honestly tell me that Harden will not miss a start for the rest of this season and will miss limited and by limited time, i mean like maybe two weeks, next season, then this trade is a big win. A huge win. But you can't. And I know that goes for all trades and especially trades that involve young pitchers. But isn't that what you go into each trade thinking? Will I get my money's worth?
See, Billy Beane, the A's GM, has been known to be a shrewd businessman, just ask Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams. He almost always gets the best out of every deal he makes because he directs his scouts into looking for what he wants in players. But look at the players that the A's got in this deal. SP Sean Gallagher who has pitched well this season, but nobody projects to a top-line starter. LF Matt Murton, who is exactly what Beane looks for in a player, smart, gets on base and has some pop. But Murton has had almost zero power this season. Murton's slugging percentage in the majors this season in a small sample size was .300 and in 191 AAA at-bats, it was only .382. And at this point, he's 26 so there is no room to call him a prospect. I think he'll have a good career as a 4th outfielder on most teams, but nothing more. Also include were LF/2B Eric Patterson and C Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is 22 and in high A ball this season after being drafted during the 2007 draft. In Low A last season, he hit .346 with good power and may end up being the key to the trade. But with Geovanny Soto behind the plate for the Cubs for at least the next 6 years barring, injuries or slumps, Donaldson was a player with a stone in front of him. Patterson turned 25 this season and is on the cusp of no longer being a prospect. And with a slight better plate discipline than his brother Corey, I wouldn't expect much from him in his major league career. He could become the next Ray Durham for the A's or the next Bobby Hill. So really, the best players Beane got for Harden is Gallagher, who is a 3 or 4 in the rotation at best and Donaldson, who is still young and no one knows what his ceiling could be. Does this sound like a great trade for a top of the rotation pitcher? Or a good haul for someone on the verge of breaking down. By the way, last Tuesday vs Anaheim, Harden's fastball was an average of 7 mph slower than it usually is. Just sayin.