Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Cubs Answer In Short Order

Remember how I said yesterday that I would cover my NL All-Stars today? Well, I kinda' lied. Off the top of my head it would be:

C: Brian McCann
1B: Lance Berkman
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Chipper Jones
SS: Hanley Ramirez
OF: Matt Holliday
OF: Pat Burrell
OF: Ryan Ludwick
SP: Tim Lincecum

I'm glad I didn't add Rich Harden to the AL team, since he wouldn't be able to play for the team (I think). That's because Harden and Chad Gaudin are on their way to the NL. The A's have traded them to the Chicago Cubs in return for Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, and Josh Donaldson. Let's break it down.

Cubs get:

Rich Harden - 27 year-old RHSP; loads of talent, throws hard, great stuff, iffy control sometimes; plagued by injury issues - makes $4.75 M this year with a team option for $9 M in 2009 - 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts this season with 10.7 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings, and a 1.14 WHIP.

Chad Gaudin - 25 year-old RHP; serviceable #4/5 starter or swingman, not great stuff but workable, trouble throwing strikes consistently - making $1.775 M in his first year of arbitration - 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 26 games, six starts, with 6.3 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings, and a 1.28 WHIP.

A's get:

Sean Gallagher - 22 year-old RHSP; throws low 90's fastball, change, and breaking-ball; already showing slightly above average control with a solid K rate; could develop into a #2 starter, but #3/4 is much more likely - making the league minimum in his rookie season - 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA in 12 games, 10 starts, with 7.5 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings, and a 1.36 WHIP.

Matt Murton - 26 year-old LF; never got a long look with the Cubs; good be a 290 / 360 / 475 type hitter, but is better against lefties; not a great defender - a year left until arbitration - 294 / 362 / 448 career, but his OPS has decreased 4 straight years (down to .586 this year before he was sent to AAA).

Eric Patterson - 25 year-old 2B; like brother Corey Patterson but with better plate discipline and worse defense - in his rookie year - 239 / 308 / 348 in limited time this year, and 320 / 358 / 517 in AAA.

Josh Donaldson - 22 year-old C; not hitting well in A-ball, but is supposed to have a pretty good eye.

Rich Harden is obviously the best player in the trade, and I'm surprised he could be had for so little. That doesn't mean it was a bad deal for Oakland, as Gallagher has the potential to equal Harden's total value on a yearly basis (if Harden continues to be unable to make 30 starts). Murton can be an average outfielder, and Patterson can be about an average second baseman (and I know next to nothing about Donaldson). Still, I would have expected Josh Vitters to be involved in such a deal - there is no Matt LaPorta type going to the A's. That Billy Beane threw in Gaudin seems excessive. Thought maybe he would have taken on the risk-reward of Rich Hill given the chance to buy low. I guess Oakland's OK with not trying to challenge to Angels this year. [A's fans are not happy at all about this one, it seems.]

[Rob Neyer thinks the A's may be taking advantage of some insider info:
"This is where proximity really helps. Nobody should have a better idea about Harden’s immediate future than the A’s. If they think he’s going to be healthy for the rest of this season, they should keep him. With a healthy Harden, there’s no obvious reason to think the A’s can’t contend for a playoff spot down the stretch. Which is, you know, what it’s all about.

But if he’s not healthy, they probably don’t have the depth to contend because their pitching has to carry them.

Granted, all this may change between now and the July 31 trade deadline. At the moment, the A’s are 3½ games behind the wild-card-leading Red Sox. If they’re six or seven games out, the equation’s different. But if the A’s are still close at the end of this month and they’re willing to deal Harden? Caveat emptor."
That's a good point, but I still think Beane could have gotten a little more for his ace.]

Needless to say, this is a great deal for the Cubs. They only trade one guy who has an important place on the team (Gallagher) and replace him with a guy who can challenge CC Sabathia (who, as of this writing, is shutting out the Rockies in his first start for Milwaukee) when he's on the mound. Zambrano-Harden-Dempster in the rotation; Marmol-Wood in the pen; and Soriano-Fukudome-Lee-Ramirez-Soto-Edmonds-DeRosa-Theriot swinging the bats might make the Cubs the front runners to win the World Series.

Maybe the Cardinals will now try to counter with a move of the their own. I think Brian Roberts would look awfully good hitting ahead of Pujols, Ludwick, and Ankiel.

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