The Rich Harden trade reaction

Heard this from a talent evaluator in the aftermath of the Rich Harden trade: “I think (the A’s) just traded damaged goods.”

That seems to be the majority opinion around the Coliseum right now. Harden just didn’t look right in his final two A’s starts, and that has everybody wondering if (when?) he might break down again. Wonder if Billy Beane was wondering the same thing, not that he’d ever admit it if he was.

Anyway, here are some quotes:

From Rich Harden: “I had kind of heard about (the rumors). But I was surprised when it happened, a bit of a shock. I think it’ll be good. They’re a good team, got a chance to do something special. It’s tough leaving her at the same time.  I’ve been here my whole career.”

From Beane: “I would say the Cubs were pretty aggressive. Me and (Cubs general manager Jim Hendry) talk a lot anyways. We consistently had conversations over the last month. We finally came to an agreement this morning. I don’t think there was necessarily anything that put it over the edge, other than Jim’s consistent contact, the fact that they were looking for a starting pitcher — I wouldn’t say they were looking for a starting pitcher, they were looking for Rich.

Also from Beane: “We were balancing, respecting that the club is playing well while also keeping in mind we’ve had numerous injuries over the past week. Guys have done a good job trying to battle as much as they can. But I think we also started thinking as we go forward, what we set out to do this year. I don’t think we’ve taken a step back, but I think we’ve taken a step forward for the next five years.”

From second baseman Mark Ellis: “(As players), we’ve got to be out there, play every day like we’re making a run to the playoffs. I don’t think it sends a message to us. I think it’s something they felt they had to do.”






So long Rich Harden

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.

More later.



Harden heading out?

You knew a rumor of this sort was coming, it was only a matter of time. But just heard that the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs are in discussions with the A’s involving Rich Harden.

First thought: The Cubs might be responding to the acquisition by their NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers of starter C.C. Sabathia. Second thought: This won’t be the only rumor involving Harden between now and July 31.

I’m leaning toward thinking the proper avenue for the A’s is to deal Harden. He’s been quite hittable his past two starts, and perhaps they think they’re playing with house money now that Harden has made 11 straight starts without getting hurt. I’m sure there’s continuing concern that Harden can break again, especially since his fastball has lacked a little life in his past couple of starts.

Besides, the A’s are a longshot to win the American League West, and I don’t see them making a move in the wild-card standings unless they get completely healthy. They haven’t been completely healthy since the Lincoln administration (joke, people). The A’s have shown how replenishing with young talent can breathe life into an organization, and no reason to think they won’t get a bountiful of talent for Harden.

Still, you’d hate to stumble into a playoff berth and not have Harden on your roster.  Imagine a Cubs-A’s World Series in which Harden was pitching Game 7 against the A’s? (Yeah, right)

By the way, this question was posed to me during a radio show today? Who has a better shot to make the playoffs, the A’s or Giants? Had to say the Giants. How wack is that?





Use Rich to get Richer?

OK, here’s my question? Do the A’s trade Rich Harden? Dominant again today in a win over Philadelphia. Always a guy who leaves you wondering if the next pitch will be his last.

I’ve been pondering this question for, oh, about two years now and after much thought and research and many questions, I have the same answer now that I did then: I don’t know.

On the one hand, he’s the single biggest trade chip the A’s could put on the market. And if Billy Beane got such impressive talent for Dan Haren, and an emerging stud for Nick Swisher, imagine what he could pilfer for Harden.

On the other, the A’s continue to hang around the wild-card race, and the addition of another stud pitcher — C.C. Sabathia anyone? — could ensure their season-long presence in the race. And, should the A’s stun the masses and get into the playoffs, Harden can win a series by himself.

Peter Gammons breaks it down pretty well on his ESPN blog. What is Beane going to do? What would you do? 


Harden, DL — Sound familiar?

The official release is not yet on the A’s Web site, but Rich Harden has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained back muscle behind his shoulder blade.

What can you say? That’s an impressive 4-for-4 for Harden. Four straight seasons on the disabled list; three straight years he hasn’t made it out of April.

At least the A’s know what they’re getting.


Harden: Deja vu all over again

Woke up this morning to the talking heads on KNBR announcing that Rich Harden’s next start has been pushed back again. Perused the Internet, and sure enough “it’s not too likely” he’s starting on Saturday.

Good grief! What is it with this guy?! I’m all for being cautious, and I understand it’s only April. But at some point, Harden has to pitch through some of his pain and get on the mound. I’m guessing Joe Blanton doesn’t feel 100 percent every single time he’s on the hill.

A’s fans, how tired are you of this repeated pattern?


Harden’s injury, and more …

OK readers, here’s your chance. Weekly excerpts of your comments will appear in the Sunday Times. The more you tell me what you think, the more the readers will get a chance to know what you think.

With that, let’s get to some thoughts on the A’s.

— Had an interesting discussion Friday with Marty Lurie, who does such a fine job on the A’s pregame shows and with his “Inside Baseball, Saturday Night” program. He says the A’s should do all they can to keep onto Rich Harden, no matter what. Arms like that, he said, are so rare that you have to hold onto them.

I’m not sure I agree.

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Harden fast

Rich Harden’s 2008 debut is in the books, and it was a doozy. Six innings, nine strikeouts and only a lone run — a homer by Boston’s Manny Ramirez, and obviously there’s no shame in that.

Take it with the proper caution, however. Harden has tantalized like this before. Two Aprils ago, I remember watching him mow down the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field and thinking he was going to win at least 20. Last year, I called our beat writer Joe Stiglich at the Coliseum while watching Harden make the Yankees look like fools, and moments after hanging up the phone, he walked off with an injury that essentially ruined his season.

That said, it is easy to let the mind wander. Harden is so much fun to watch when he’s right, because he makes it look so effortless. This morning, he spotted all his pitches consistently and was clocking 95 mph at times, according to the ESPN radar.

Now, it’s reliever Santiago Casilla. The A’s couldn’t close out a one-run lead late yesterday. Let’s see if they can protect a 4-1 lead in this one.


Bob Geren speaks

Denial is a very interesting thing.

If there was one thing that struck me more than any other during the A’s annual media luncheon this afternoon, it was that. The A’s always kick off 2008 by stuffing the scribes and trotting out the manager for a Q-and-A session, and it’s always interesting to hear what the skipper thinks. And after all of five minutes, I was left wondering, “What is he thinking?”

Here’s what he was saying:

On the perception the rebuilding A’s may struggle (OK, stink): “The perception is not accurate. We’re going to try to win every game.”

On the expectations created (OK, devalued) with the trades of Nick Swisher and Dan Haren: “I don’t feel like just because we traded a couple of our players that it’s going to make that much of a difference.”

Like I said, denial is an interesting thing.

Now, I understand that Geren shouldn’t be condemned for airing feelings that go so far against the conventional wisdom. More power to him, in fact.

That said, it is fair to wonder if has a true grasp of what’s happened this winter. The reasons Billy Beane gave for making the trades that robbed Geren of his staff ace and his second-most productive hitter were that 1) he didn’t feel like this team could win enough if returned in tact and 2) he wanted to get younger and restock the farm system.  Given that reasoning, you’d hope Geren would realize it enough to separate what’s best for the future with what’s best for the present.

Example: A young pitcher (say Gio Gonzalez), gets lit up early in a start during April. Does Geren stick with him to see how the starter handles such a thing at the expense of trying to win that game, or does he yank him early? Or say, Daric Barton goes into a titanic slump in May? Does Geren give him at-bats in clutch situations with a game on the line, or does he pinch-hit for him? And if it’s the latter, what kind of message does it send?

Anyway, these kind of questions will iron themselves out once the season begins, but it will be worth following. Geren must maintain his credibility in the A’s clubhouse after a 2007 campaign in which he struggled to do so, and a few silly moves could cause him to lose the respect of the few veterans who remain.

Meantime, here are some of the other things Geren said during the luncheon:

— Joe Blanton and Rich Harden will be the first two starters in Japan. Of course, this is dependent on both of them still being on the roster come the season-opener.

— He will emphasize winning in spring training, because he doesn’t want all the talk about rebuilding to leave a message that the A’s shouldn’t try to win. That’s kind of a tweak on his above quote and seems reasonable.

— Third baseman Eric Chavez has started baseball activities and has “absolutely no set-backs” from three offseason surgeries.

— Justin Duchscherer is “going to have to prove” he belongs in the starting rotation. Duchscherer, who had hip surgery last season, reportedly has had no set-backs.

— Dana Eveland, one of six players acquired from Arizona in the Haren deal, has a motion and stuff comparable to David Wells. Let’s hope he won’t have that body shape, either.