Most people, when looking at the recent Rich Harden trade (to the cubs for Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson and Josh Donaldson) think that it's a complete STEAL for the Cubbies. In some ways, I think it is too, but probably not in the sense that you're thinking.
Why would the A's trade Harden? He's the most dominant right handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. Yeah I said it. Prove me wrong. Since his first real start this season (May 17th), he is second in the MLB in strikeouts to A.J. Burnett. Only problem with Burnett is the 5.45 ERA versus Harden's untouchable 2.02 ERA. Who else you got? Sheets? Seven less Ks in eight MORE innings and a 2.56 ERA... Bring it. I'm not just talking this year either folks. Harden's most recent almost full year (128 innings in 2005... he is a walking band aid) he produced 121 Ks and a ridiculous 2.53 ERA. He is insane. Last year in 25.2 innings (band aid, band aid, band aid) Rich pooped out 27 Ks and a 2.46 ERA. He is dirty, filthy, grimy, nasty, putrid, sleazy, vile and whatever the f*** else.
Also! The A's are only 4.5 games back. “Billy Beane,” the average baseball fan yells, “You're over the hill and you just traded away all playoff hopes!!!” Wrong. Silly goose... Mr. Beane is just looking at what he's got and where the A's are going. Do you realize that in six seasons for Harden he has only made 89 starts. That averages to 14-15 starts a year. That. Is. A. Joke. Richard.
Trading this guy has been nearly impossible because most of his career has been spent on the disabled list, and trading him is absolutely necessary for the rebuilding, yet good, A's squad, for the simple reason that he WILL be back on the DL soon. Things like this don't just go away over night ladies and gentlemen. You are not about to witness Harden make 35 starts a year for the Cubs as they win back to back to back to back to blah blah blah World Series's. The Cubs will be lucky to see Harden in the post-season at all.
The reason that this is STILL somewhat of a steal for the Cubs is simple. The Cubs are amazing. The Cubs with a healthy Rich Harden are unbearably amazing, but the Cubbies without Rich Harden are still amazing. Bottom line folks, the Cubs are winning the Central no matter what. They've got a good staff, a great bullpen and the best offense in the NL. That is why I think this trade is somewhat of a steal for the Cubs. In the off-chance that Harden does appear in the playoffs, that is a huge bonus, but if he doesn't, the Cubs are still a great ball club and probably the favorites to take the NL. Good job Cubs management, even though they definitely didn't make the trade for those reasons.
As far as the players the Cubs gave up in the Harden deal I also like for both teams. For the Cubs, nothing meaningful...
Gallagher is good and projects as a solid-to-good #3 or 4 starter, but the Cubs also have Rich Hill and others to take that spot (yes don't forget about Rich Hill even though you hate him because you drafted him in fantasy; he is still going to be sick).
Murton is good, but for some ridiculous reason couldn't crack the MLB roster for the Cubs. He isn't a prospect simply because he's in his prime already, BUT! He is good. And you know what? For all those people that think the A's are giving up with this Harden trade, how about Matt Murton who will come in and produce right away for y'all (good y'all) unless you A's fans are totally content with Emil Brown who is batting .245 with a .285 obp (are you kidding?) and a .375 slg percentage. Or maybe you are happy with Jack Cust and his dominance this year batting at a stellar .223 with a .365 obp and .431 slg percentage. Murton on his career as a major leaguer with sporadic at bats has a .294 avg, .362 obp and .448 slg, so get off me and him and me and him and me and him....
Eric Patterson is a good player who will take over for Mark Ellis eventually at 2B. He hits for very good average with below average power but extremely good speed and low strikeouts. Future lead-off guy much? The final guy is a question mark but a good risk vs reward guy for the A's.
Josh Donaldson who was a first round pick in the 2007 draft by the Cubs as of right now is a mid-level hitting prospect at catcher. He absolutely raked last year in low A ball but this year has struggled. He is also only 22 and so it's a good chance to take for the A's.
Overall I like the deal for both teams. The Cubs really had no use for any of those players, and the A's got probably the best value they could get for Harden in the little window of time while he's healthy. Trades are fun! Sweet.