Approximately 48 hours ago, I wrote this in an entry in response to the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by the Brewers: “Plus, there are still 24 days left of the trading season, and Jim
Hendry will be working the phones trying to add another starter to the
Cubs rotation (Rich Harden perhaps).”
Well it certainly didn’t take 24 days, as Jim Hendry moved quickly to acquire the A’s right hander on Tuesday. Harden and righty Chad Gaudin head to Chicago while CubBlog favorites Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton head to Oakland along with Eric Patterson and minor league catching prospect Josh Donaldson.
The immediate reaction to this trade was “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” After some consideration, however, my next reaction was that we just traded for Mark Prior v2. Unhittable when healthy, but unhealthy more often than not. Harden has already pitched more innings this year (77.0), than in 2006 and 2007 combined (72.1), and that includes a 3-week stint on the DL this year for shoulder problems. This of course only includes innings pitched in the majors, not in simulated games (a category in which Mark Prior is among the all time career leaders).
In my opinion, there are two ways to look at it.
1) The Brewers acquired the best available player with a package of prospects that the Cubs were unable to match. The Cubs went out and acquired the next best available player and paid a pretty good price.
2) The Cubs acquired a player in Harden who is one of the best, but has a very bad history of inability to stay healthy, and whose fastball has dropped in speed over his past few starts.
So look at it whichever way you choose, but if (and I did say if) the Cubs take this team into October, and Carlos Zambrano and a healthy Rich Harden are slated to start games 1, 2, 5 and 6 of a playoff series, is there anyone who would pick against them? I may be biased, but I know I wouldn’t.
Lost among the Harden hoopla is the acquisition of Chad Gaudin. Don’t call this guy a throw-in, as he will provide much needed long relief in place of Gallagher (or Marquis who refuses to accept a role in the pen). He has pitched very well in Oakland, has played for Lou briefly in Tampa, and will be a welcome addition to the Rajun Cajuns squad forming along with TheRiot and Fontenot. In all seriouness, his presence in the pen will give Marmol and Howry some additional rest, which may be the biggest key in the Cubs run towards the postseason.
It would be nice to score in more than 1 inning, but a W is a W. It’s also good to see Rich Hill back in form, throwing 5 strong innings. It seems pretty clear that Reed Johnson was not brought in to be a backup and as much as I don’t like to see Murton toiling in AAA, it was a good move to bring him in.
It’s also good to see the Cubs winning the close ones. After opening the 2007 season 0-6 in 1 run games, the 2008 Cubs are 3-2 in that category. They didn’t win their 3rd 1 run game until June last season.
Finally, Carlos Marmol is approaching Devin Hester status in Chicago. That slider is unhittable.