Something about this Harden situation doesn’t sit well with me and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t sit well with a few other readers as well. Coming into the 2009 season, we knew that Harden would be a free agent at the end of the season. I had a feeling the Cubs wouldn’t bring him back. What I didn’t expect was that we would get nothing for him whatsoever. When he’s healthy, and that’s the key, he has one of the most electric arms and overpowering set of stuff in the game. Now, he’s pitching for Texas and we’ve got nothing to show for it. I believe Jim Hendry had two moves to make and held on both of them when he could have been active.

Move # 1 – Trade Rich Harden late in August last year to Minnesota

On August 28, ESPN noted that the Minnesota Twins had claimed Harden. There was talk that they were interested in dealing him, but that the asking price was too high. I was ok with it at the time, though I would have made the deal, because I assumed it meant Harden would either be back next year or we would at least make the offer of arbitration in an effort to receive a supplementary 1st round pick this year in the draft as compensation. Instead, we did neither.

By dealing him in August, it does send a white flag to your team, but did we really think we were going anywhere at that point? As of that day, we were 9 back in the division and 6.5 in the wildcard. It wasn’t happening and the move should have been made, especially considering that the team shut Harden down not too long after that.

Move # 2 – Offer Harden Arbitration

Some may disagree with me on this one, but hear me out. With Harden being a Type B free agent, it was up to the Cubs to offer arbitration to Harden to be eligible to receive compensation this June in the event that he went to another team via free agency. The fear of many was that if he was offered arbitration, he would accept and we’d be stuck with him. While that certainly could have happened, looking at the current state of the rotation could that have been that bad of a problem to have? I’m not saying he is someone I want to spend the money on for 2010, but if we were stuck with him, it could be worse.

What I would have done is offer arbitration to Harden with the assumption that he leaves. If that’s the case you’re a pick richer in the draft as a result. On the off chance he accepts the offer for arbitration, you follow the lead of the GM of Atlanta, Frank Wren. When offering arbitration to Rafael Soriano, a player they didn’t really want to bring back, they saw him accept. They promptly turned around and dealt him to the Rays for Jesse Chavez. Is Chavez a great prize? No, but when you get dealt an unexpected lemon, you make lemonade. Hendry could have offered to Harden, had he accepted, you deal him before the hearings. You can’t tell me no team would be interested in him for a small price. Even if the player coming back is nothing more than a scrub, you get more that we got as of right now.

You can rave about Hendry’s moves this off-season to move the Aarons (Miles and Heilman), but I look at his inability to properly deal with the Harden case and his overconfidence in the market for Milton Bradley as big time mistakes that I’m not going to be quick to forgive this off-season.

Who Am I?

Clue # 1 – I once struck out six times in a game

Clue # 2 – I played for the Cubs for one season before being traded to Cincinnati

Clue # 3 – I never won the MVP award, but was the runner up in the NL one year.

Clue # 4 – I died just over five years after my final game.

Clue # 5 – My Nickname was “Tiger”

Clue # 6Legend has it that during his one season in Cuba, Hoak actually batted against Fidel Castro

Clue # 7 – On May 26, 1959, in a game against the Milwaukee Braves, Harvey Haddix had pitched a perfect game for 12 innings. In the 13th, MY throwing error on a ground ball by lead-off hitter Félix Mantilla ruined the perfect game bid.

Clue # 8 – I was a Pirates’ broadcaster for two years, a coach for the Phillies in 1967, and a manager in the Pirates’ farm system for the next two years.

Who Am I?

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. 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 and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail