Where’s there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and a blaze was uncovered about 20 minutes ago when the A’s announced that they’ve traded Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs along with reliever Chad Gaudin. In return, the A’s get right-handed pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton and infielder Eric Patterson and catcher Josh Donaldson. All but Donaldson have spent time on the Cubs’ roster this season, and Gallagher will immediately jump into the A’s rotation, A’s general manager Billy Beane said.
The deal comes amid myriad reports out of Chicago that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had been talking often with Beane about Harden. Beane basically confirmed that in his session with reporters, saying that it was Hendry’s stick-with-it-ness that ultimately created the deal.
I like the move from the A’s standpoint. As I blogged Monday, Harden hadn’t looked like his normal overpowering self in his past two starts, and with 11 straight starts behind him, I felt like the A’s were playing with house money. Talked to a couple of people in the organization moments before the deal was announced, and they seemed to have that same sense.
As I also blogged, the standings had something to do with it, too. Beane said the team has weighed the recent injuries to Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez against what its goals were at the beginning of the season. He said he sees this trade “not as a step back, but a step forward for the next 3-5 years.” We’ll see, and what will be real interesting is the reaction of fans to this move, given that Beane’s winter trades of Nick Swisher and Dan Haren yielded very positive results.
I think Beane, again, deserves the benefit of the doubt. This A’s club was not built to win this year. And even with Harden aboard, it was hard to see that happening. Beane obviously is a better evaluator of such things than me, and I tend to go with a guy’s track record on such things. So I’m guessing the short-term pain will be replaced by long-term gain.
As for Harden, it potentially could be a great deal. It could also be a nightmare. He goes to a legitimate World Series contender in a great city. This move is essentially the Cubs’ response to the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by Milwaukee, so there will be pressure on Harden to be the type of ace he’s always been envisioned as being. But if Harden gets hurt, the fans will be far more unforgiving than they are here.