You’re going to read and hear a lot of “experts” break down the deal that took place between the Cubs and A’s as well as the deal that took place the day before between Cleveland and Milwaukee. Please don’t buy in wholly to any of them, including this “expert”. It’s not a knock on anyone’s talent or intelligence, it’s simply a fact that trades can’t be evaluated fully until a few years down the road. If there was ever more proof of that statement in a season it’s this one. Both the Tigers and the Mets made major deals in the off-season to pull in potential game changers. Both were essentially anointed the representatives for their respective leagues in the 2008 World Series. Both have gone on to hover around .500. Sometimes you just never know. You just have to wait and see. With that being said, I think the best way for me to break down the deal is to give my thoughts on each of the six players involved and let you decide for yourself. I’ll preface it by saying that I’m pleased with the deal.

Rich Harden – This is the staple of the deal, yet most are skeptical of his health. Obviously when you have a player that has missed the type of time that Harden has missed, you have to enter the deal with a bit of apprehension. At the same time, you have to look at the extreme upside of the deal and the talent of Rich Harden. Let’s take a look at his injury history over the past five years.

  • 2005 – Missed 34 games due to a strained left oblique.
  • 2006 – Missed 34 games due to a back strain
  • 2006 – Missed 129 games due to a sprained right elbow
  • 2007 – Missed 151 games due to a strained pitching shoulder.
  • 2008 – Missed 31 games due to a strained pitching shoulder.

When he’s on and healthy, Harden is one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball. He makes very little in relation to the talent he possesses. He’s signed through 2008 at a rate of $4.5 million with a $7 million club option. That’s less than Ted Lilly and less than Jason Marquis, both of whom he is better than. If he pays off, the Cubs have a legit 1-2 combo in 2009 in a division that will see the Brewers lose both of their top two.

Chad Gaudin – No one seems to mention Gaudin in the trade as a key part, but rather as an afterthought. I disagree with that assessment. Gaudin provides the bullpen help we could use with the versatility to be able to pitch out of the rotation if needed next year. He loves to rely on his slider and has good movement on his fastball. A’s fans felt that he was more valuable to their team than Joe Blanton, and that tells me a lot because Blanton has been a very good pitcher for the A’s. Don’t get me wrong, Gaudin isn’t going to dominate the top of the rotation, but he has found his niche in the bullpen and that’s what we had as a need. Ideally, it would have been better if he threw left handed, but I’ll settle. He’s in his arbitration years, which means his salary is low and we’re in control of his next two years. He could turn out to be the gem in the deal.

Matt Murton – Let’s get this straight. Repeat after me. Matt Murton is NOT an all star, nor will he ever get close to being an all star. Murton is a weak hitting, high on base, poor fielding outfielder with low versatility. He’s an average starter on most teams. Losing him, especially when we have no need for him, is not a loss.

Eric Patterson – I was a big Patterson fan from the day he was drafted, but like Murton, he was a player that was ready for Major League time on a team without a spot for him. Those types of players need to be moved and exchanged for other pieces that are needed. Patterson has good speed and works hard, but he doesn’t have the talent potential of his brother. I’m not bothered by losing him either.

Keeping Mum buy Sean Gallagher – The 2008 Minor League Baseball Analyst mentions the following on Gallagher. “Strong/durable pitcher with three average to above pitches and the ability to get hitters out without his best stuff. Keeps the ball down, prevents the long ball, and has good fastball command, keeping hitters off-balance by throwing all three pitches at any time. Improved velocity, but curveball regressed.” They project him as a 4th starter. I have a little higher hopes for Gallagher and like his makeup, but you have to give up talent to get talent in return. At his best, I don’t think Gallagher projects to anywhere near the potential Harden projects to.

Josh Donaldson – A lot of bloggers haven’t heard of Donaldson, which is fine. Some people aren’t as up on the farm system and prefer to focus their efforts on the players involved on the field right now. Donaldson is a pretty good prospect, though. He’s a college guy out of Auburn that was picked in the supplemental part of round 1 last season by the Cubs as compensation for losing Juan Pierre to free agency. Coming into the season, he ranked as the # 7 prospect in the system by Baseball America, but was off to a rough start. What worries me a little is the slow start he’s off to this year after playing so well last year. Some have said that the Cubs made a mistake including him in the deal, but with Geovany Soto playing the way he is, I’m OK with dealing Donaldson. If he wasn’t 22 years old, it may be a different story, but the fact is that if Donaldson develops, you have a log jam at a position you really can’t afford to have a jam at. Deal him now and bank on Geo. Is that really a bad thing?

Athletics Fans React

  • Wow. I’m surprised Gaudin left in the deal as well. I hear Donaldson is a “walk machine” and Murton and Patterson seem AAAA talent at best….
  • I totally agree. I’m not seeing anything here that was worth losing Gaudin over! He is starter ready and was only put in the bullpen due to Harden’s return in a crowded rotation. I could of let Harden go but Gaudin just crosses the line. I don’t know much about these guys from the cubs but I’m not thinking the cubs fans will miss any of them.
  • Murton is more or less Bobby Kielty – that’s useful to the A’s right now, but not terribly exciting. Donaldson is a catcher who appears to be not hitting in A ball. Patterson is a toolsy outfielder who’s hit decently in the minors and is already 25. Gallagher is a young pitcher who’s put up good (but rarely great) numbers at every level in the minors, but hasn’t had major league success. Clearly Beane sees some real upside in at least one of these players, but I’m honestly not sure which.
  • The A’s were robbed blind by this trade. Robbed blind. Quite possibly the saddest day of my A’s fan life…Not even someone like Pie? Vitters? And dealing Gaudin too? Jeez
  • I honestly don’t think Harden is 100 percent healthy. His last two games were his two worst games of the season and I’m guessing Beane is pulling a quick one because, hell, you have to sell on Harden while you can still get something for him and he isn’t on the DL for the 100th time. Interesting that Cubs fans are delighted about it given that they had two of the most legendary injury prone pitchers of the last decade in Wood and Prior. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why Gaudin was included as the Cubs insurance policy in case Harden shows up, pitches one game and winds up back on the DL. I could be wrong, but that’s how I’m viewing this right now. I knew a Harden deal was coming. I could just sense it. But I was hoping Beane would get more for him without having to include Gaudin.

Thoughts from Last Night

  • Geo is legit and has me excited. He hit another homer last night and rightfully deserves the starting spot in the all star game.
  • Does bat wagging scare you as much as it scares me? When I see guys like Brandon Phillips and Gary Sheffield wag that bat it scares the crap out of me.
  • Jerry Hairston got robbed blind all night at the plate. He’s hitting the ball really well and those are going to get through tonight I fear.
  • Kudos to Bob Brenly for talking a little trash during an at bat by DeRosa. Harang had him 3-0 and Brenly says something to the effect of “before DeRosa gets walked by Harang, I want to send a birthday wish to….” Harang walked DeRo on the very next pitch.
  • Should it really be called an RBI when the hitter walks to bring in the run? RBI means run batted in, but if the hitter doesn’t actually use the bat, that seems weird.
  • In the 4th inning, Fukudome had a ball drop in front of him and he went on to throw out Adam Dunn at second on a force because he had to hold up. The hitter is given a fielder’s choice, but when you think about it, Fukudome didn’t really have a “choice” in the matter.
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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail