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Breaking News: Harden Traded To Chicago

By Jason July 8, 2008 6:49 pm

It’s official.

Comcast Sportsnet Chicago reports that the Chicago Cubs have acquired Rich Harden from the Oakland Athletics in a six-player deal. The Cubs will reportedly also get Chad Gaudin from the A's in exchange for RHP Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton, infielder Eric Patterson and catcher Josh Donaldson.

What Did Oakland Get?

Gallagher is a 22 year old right handed starting pitcher. According to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus...

"Gallagher is solid across the board, with a low-90s fastball, looping curve, and deceptive changeup all rating as average to slightly above, as does his command and control. He's aggressive on the mound, goes after hitters, and shows confidence in all his offerings." Gallagher was considered a three star prospect by his rankings heading into this season.

This year, Gallagher is 3-4 with a 4.45 in 10 starts, while striking out 7.3 batters per 9 innings. Gallagher projects as a middle of the rotation pitcher.  He should step into Oakland's rotation immediately.

Matt Murton has always been a player I felt was highly underutilized. Since being aquired by the Cubs, from Boston, Mutyon has spent most of his time as a bench player. In 2006, he put up a solid line of .297/.365/.444 in 142 games.  After that year he was inexplicably demoted to a bench player and most recently this year to the minors. Murton, now 26, has had his development hindered by his misuse. Expect him to start in Oakland and put up solid numbers.

Josh Donaldson (22) is a talented, but raw, offensive catcher. Donaldson crushed low A pitching last year and put up a line of .346/.470/.605 while hitting nine homers and stealing six bases in 49 games. Donaldson has struggled this year after being moved up to A ball. Donaldson was also regarded as a three star prospect coming into this season. If Donaldson’s offense continues to develop and defense is at least average he could be a poor mans Russel Martin.

Eric Patterson, 25, is a second baseman who moved to the outfield because of his defensive shortcomings. He's a toolsy offensive player who has pop, knows how to take a pitch and has a tremendous amount of speed. He’s dominated the past two years at AAA. In 49 games this season he’s hit .323/.356/.519 while stealing ten bases without getting caught once. Patterson has struggled in 38 big league at bats this season. At worst, Patterson will make a very useful utility player.

What Did Chicago Get?

Gaudin, 25, has been a long a reliever this year with Oakland (in previous seasons he had been a starter.) He's 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.

Harden of course is the key piece to the deal. Harden is a dominant front line starter when healthy. In fact he might have the best stuff in all of baseball. Of course he also has more DL trips than he does Cy-Youngs. He's 5-1 this year with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts. Oh yeah, he also strikes out 10/9 and has an off the charts stuff rating of 42.

That's the good. The bad is that Harden only started 13 games the past two years because of injury. In fact he hasn’t exceeded 31 starts in a season and that was all the way back in 2004. Harden will also be getting expensive in the years to come as he reaches free agency after the 2009 season.

At first glance it doesn't seem Billy Beane got enough for Harden, especially considering the A's are in a position to win this year. However, remember Billy Beane has a knack for knowing when a pitcher is going to break down (or in this case continue breaking down) do the names Mark Mulder, Keith Foulke, and Billy Koch sound familiar to you?

The Cubs certainly made this trade in response to the C.C. Sabathia acquisition. If, and that’s a giant if, Harden can stay healthy, the Cubs just got a whole lot better that's for sure. [1]

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