Harden and Gaudin Traded to Cubs
by Ken Arneson
2008-07-08 16:04

Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin were traded to the Cubs today for pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton, infielder Eric Patterson and catcher Josh Donaldson.

My first reaction is that Cubs fans ought to be insanely happy about this. They’re not likely going to miss any of those players in their pennant drive much, while Harden and Gaudin will both make an immediate impact, especially if they turn Gaudin back into a starter.

And my second reaction is that if Cubs fans should be happy, then A’s fans should be disappointed. I like Gallagher, but Murton seems redundant on the A’s roster, Patterson seems like the type of risky player who, like his brother Cory, will likely not pan out unless he can miraculously find some plate discipline, and Donaldson–never heard of him.

But still, I suppose now was the time for Beane to sell, before Harden got hurt again. And Beane was probably going to trade Gaudin either this July or in the winter, as the A’s have plenty of cheaper players to provide similar production than Gaudin, a former super-two player who reached arbitration status earlier than other players of his age.

So Beane had two very talented players, but flawed–Harden by his fragility, Gaudin by his price tag. The timing was right to trade both these guys.

So I’m not bothered by trading either player. What I am bothered by is that I don’t feel like the Cubs are feeling nearly as much pain about this trade as I am. I liked Gaudin, and loved Harden. Watching him pitch filled me with a child-like giddiness. The Cubs should be wincing–ooh, did we have to give up [insert Josh Vitters or other talented name here]? But they’re not, are they?

I can rationalize it–Harden’s fragility reduced his trade value, and they’re getting five years of Gallagher for 1+ year of Harden, but screw rationality. They traded two flawed players, and got back four flawed players, none of whom are very easy to muster up any child-like giddiness about. Emotionally, this one really hurts.




Comments: 26
1.   toni
2008-07-08 16:19

1.  This deal sucks. And if the plan is to drive every last fan from the Oakland Coliseum, good job Lew and Beane.

2.   underdog
2008-07-08 16:25

2.  My first reaction is the same as yours -- and something along the lines of "Is Beane a closet Cubs fan?" But I also recall second-guessing Beane once or twice before and then made to look foolish. Still, you'd think they could've finagled Hill out of the Cubs instead of one of the redundant players.

3.   jmoney
2008-07-08 16:39

3.  I'm really surprised that they didn't at least get Felix Pie. This sucks. I can't really be rational about it right now.

4.   toni
2008-07-08 16:45

4.  Harden should have netted Vitters. Harden/Gaudin sure as hell should have netted something better than Gallager and 3 back-ups.

Especially since Harden is signed through next year and CC who isn't got the Tribe LaPorta.

This deal sucks and is totally unneccessary unless the Cubbies were willing to deal Soto or Vitters. I mean what is the worst that can happen? Harden pitches, pulls his eyelash and goes on the DL with us?

5.   dianagramr
2008-07-08 16:46

5.  At least the Cubs are getting flawed players that have had some measure of success.

I agree .... Pie would have been an interesting player to bring back ....

I feel your pain Ken .... and Christina Kahrl can't be happy either.

6.   nick
2008-07-08 17:09

6.  yeah, the trade does seem....maybe you can spin it, but for Hardin, shouldn't you get one guy who has a reasonable change of playing in an all-star game someday?

7.   Ken Arneson
2008-07-08 17:14

7.  Just checking: Murton's top two comps on B-R.com are:

Andre Ethier
Kirk Gibson

8.   dianagramr
2008-07-08 17:22

8.  I would think Beane would have been enamored with Rich Hill. I wonder if Hill's name came up in the convo?

9.   Jason Wojciechowski
2008-07-08 17:35

9.  So much wailing and gnashing going on around here. In the last three years, Harden has pitched 29 games. That's fewer than most Little Leaguers. He can still add to his total this year, but weren't we all just waiting for the sword to drop on him anyway? Now the Cubs can play that game.

Gaudin, meanwhile, has for the first time in his career a reasonable walk rate. After years and years of 4.25 BB/9, is he suddenly a 2.25 BB/9 pitcher? I don't know.

Oh, and I think Eric Patterson could make an All-Star team if he sticks at second base. His PECOTA for this year would put him in the Mark Grudzielanek range, OPS-wise (Grudz is fourth amongst AL second sackers in OPS), which puts him well within striking distance of having either a great first half or a surprising big-league career that puts him in the upper echelons of second basemen.

10.   underdog
2008-07-08 17:54

10.  I have a feeling Beane loves Murton.

11.   Ken Arneson
2008-07-08 17:58

11.  10 Yeah, and the benefit of Murton is it allows Beane to dump Emil Brown, who has been one of the drags on the team offense. But that's an argument for this year, and we aren't playing for this year anymore, are we?

12.   Ken Arneson
2008-07-08 18:05

12.  Here's a funny thought: the Cardinals could go and trade for Justin Duchscherer (can you say Colby Rasmus?), and end up with the best pitcher in the NL Central, even after all the trades.

13.   Jeb
2008-07-08 19:24

13.  Here's what I don't get though -- the A's are 48-41. They're ahead of the Yankees in the wild card. And yet, their GM appears to be punting this season for players that probably won't help them now. And Harden, like Ken said, is the kind of pitcher a fan can get giddy about.

When you're winning, in the hunt, etc., what does this move say to the players and the fans?

I don't have a problem with this kind of move when you're out of it, but when you're in it? crazy.

14.   williamnyy23
2008-07-08 19:38

14.  If Hardin gave you any reason to expect he could remain healthy, you'd have a point about the A's needing more in this deal. The fact of the matter, however, is Hardin is a great bet to see a lot of DL time over the next two seasons.

As for what the A's got, Gallagher, at age 22, does have a lot of upside, while Murton could benefit from steady playing time. I am willing to give Beane the benefit of the doubt here.

15.   williamnyy23
2008-07-08 19:40

15.  13 The A's are averaging only 21,000 for a pretty good team, so I am not sure impact to attendance is a great concern.

16.   wendows
2008-07-08 20:20

16.  14 Sorry to be nitpicky, but please please please, his name is Harden! "Hardin" invokes memories of former Cal Bear (Go Bears!) Devon Hardin.

17.   Jeb
2008-07-08 20:53

17.  15 I'm not just talking attendance. It's saying, "oh look, we're only 4 games out of the wild card, we have a winning record and we're better than the Yankees....let's quit." That means they have no room for error.

A's fans, you are welcome to join me and william in rooting for the Evil Empire.

18.   thinkblue88
2008-07-08 20:58

18.  Man, Justin Duchscherer is having himself a great season.

Game done in under two hours? Wow.

19.   Philip Michaels
2008-07-08 21:04

19.  18 He can be yours, apparently for the price of a few mediocre prospects.

17 No offense intended, but that will happen approximately never.

20.   Jeb
2008-07-08 21:18

20.  17 19 to further clarify, I hope no one thinks I was trolling by my pro yankee comment. I just don't like seeing a team deal like this when its in the race.

Good luck to the A's.

21.   jff
2008-07-08 21:51

21.  Maybe young Gallagher is the type of pitcher that will profit from all that foul territory. Not all pitchers do, maybe Bean sees a guy that will.

22.   jmoney
2008-07-09 00:06

22.  The A's don't care about this season. They're building for the Fremont stadium, and they've never said otherwise. As a fan of the OAKLAND A's, this pisses me off, but they haven't been real secretive about it, so I can't get that butt-hurt.

As a general fan of the team, I'm not that pissed that they traded Harden, b/c if you watch the A's on a day-to-day basis, you'll pretty quickly realize that they're not a legit playoff team--this team has very little offense to speak of. Most of the guys on the roster just can't hit.

Which brings me to what pisses me off most: the A's didn't get a good hitter in this trade. Their minor league system is stocked with good pitchers (Gonzalez, Simmons, Cahill, Anderson, Rodriguez). They're not lacking for pitching prospects. They need impact position players. In a trade for the most entertaining player on the team, they needed to get either Vitters or Pie (I would have wanted Pie, b/c the A's also need up the middle athletes), and they got neither. That's why I hate this trade.

23.   Tom Meagher
2008-07-09 01:40

23.  Ken, I don't get your comment that Murton is redundant on the A's roster. Outside of Thomas on the DL, who on the A's roster has a better projection against left-handed pitchers than Murton? He improves the team's offense considerably (maybe a half win in 2008) for his contribution against southpaws, although it's fair to fear he could end up negating that by getting playing time against RHP - that more depends on whether the A's (or the projector) are high on Murton or not. The difference between Harden and Gallagher is roughly 1.5 runs per 9, and that's over 14-15 starts at ~6 innings, or roughly 15 runs. So, I think it's fair to argue that the A's have done something that could amount to punting a win (Murton's RHB +.5, Gallagher -1.5, and Gaudin's loss not having an impact) but that the A's are likely fair in thinking it will be less than that due to Harden's injury risk and/or their being particularly high on Gallagher/Murton (or Patterson, if somehow another team was willing to make a Mark Ellis trade that really reflected his value). As an A's supporter who sometimes feels like he should be a fan, I like this trade, but I can see why it doesn't appeal as much to A's fans.

It is interesting that the main criticism of the trade (I think) is opportunity cost (that is, Beane could have gotten a better return) while the main rationale for committing to the trade now is the opportunity cost in case the Cubs end up having the best offer because of a) no team being willing to go higher because of the risks on Harden or b) Harden being injured or quite ineffective prior to the right deal springing up.

24.   Ken Arneson
2008-07-09 12:28

24.  23 I admit(ted) my argument is emotional, not rational. And the emotional argument goes like this: Rich Harden is an extremely exciting player. And in return, they got four extremely boring players: a #4-type starter, a platoon outfielder, a utility player and a low-minors catcher.

Nobody likes to trade away exciting and get boring in return, even if the math is correct. We wanted somebody in that deal who provided a little excitement back. Somebody who lets us dream, just a little. Vitters or Pie would have done that--someone you can fantasize might have a chance at stardom. With all of these guys except maybe Donaldson, these players' upsides are that they'll end up slightly-above-average. Nobody except Garrison Keillor fans ever dreams that our kids will grow up to be slightly-above-average.

As for Murton's redundancy, I was kinda looking past the current season. Murton is certainly a vast improvement over Emil Brown. But Brown had barely been playing since Gonzalez got called up. The outfield of the future is Buck-Sweeney-Gonzalez, so there's not like there's a starting job wide open for Murton to fill. That makes Murton the fourth OF/platoon OF on the less-used side of a platoon, which all things considered, isn't really a particularly big hole in the organization. I'm assuming that in the future, those guys won't really need platoon partners, and even if they do, Aaron Cunningham isn't too far away, and you can fill a right-handed outfield platoon bat pretty cheaply in free agency until Cunningham is ready. He fills a hole, but it's a temporary, small-sized hole in the lineup that does nothing to fill the gaping wide holes in the hearts of A's fans.

25.   toni
2008-07-09 14:56

25.  It's the day after and I'm still pissed about this trade. Like jmoney and ken arneson I can't think rationally about it, because the more I do, the more I read up on the players we got back, the angrier I become.

In the end, maybe this is a blessing in disguise. My heart, time and money are better spent than caring about an organization that would do something like this.

And Murton isn't redundant, he sucks. He's the Dan Johnson of the OF. The only good thing you can say about Murton is that he's has a good eye and will take a walk. His BA is going to fall playing half his games in the Colesium (if he even makes it to Oakland), he has no arm or speed and so it's not surprising his defense is suspect. So he's a light hitting corner OF'er. Patterson is Durham light... okay offensively, brick glove. And Donaldson is a struggling 22 (or 21) year old at single A. He's over-aged for the competition and one would think should be more polished coming out of Auburn. And isn't Jeb Morris our very own over-aged catcher in the minors?

Gallagher is a mid-rotation innings eater who sounds an awful lot like Blanton in size and "stuff". Supposedly he lost 30lbs and added some speed to his FB. Whom, may I add is less of a pitcher than Guadin is.

So not only did the A's send the best player in the deal in Harden (injury prone that he is) but also the second best in Gaudin.

This trade makes no sense in terms of the big rebuild or make the team better now. The only way it makes sense is in the context of a salary dump, Gaudin is arby eligible and Harden is owed 7M via an option. Which just goes to show what the A's are actually about. And if you think it's about winning or competing, you'd be wrong.

I really hope that soccer gig is working for you Billy, because you look like a fool in this trade. And I would think looking a fool would sort of burn.

26.   Chyll Will
2008-07-10 07:18

26.  Harden and Gaudin, traded for maudlin... >;)

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