Baseball Toaster Cub Town
The Internets Said I Had To Write This
2008-07-09 11:45
by Derek Smart

Other folks have been breaking down the Harden deal all yesterday, into the night, and all day today, so in some respects, I feel like there's not much I can add. Yet, despite the plethora of comment already flooding the worldwideaols, it is my duty as an internetarian to weigh in, needed or not.

My tendency when deals come across the wire is to look initially for the things that I hate. As the reality first began to sink in yesterday evening, I was having atypical trouble coming up with a list of items that caused me agita. As evening wore into night, and night to morning, I was still unable to come up with anything truly distressing. I feared I was missing something.

I've perused many takes on this deal. The Cub fan perspective is one of nearly universal orgasm. The verdict from national writers is mixed and decidedly more cautious, the concerns going something like this:

1) Sean Gallagher might turn into a very good pitcher.
2) Rich Harden might turn into a hospital patron.

The thing is, I don't disagree with either of those statements. Both are very real risks assumed by the Cubs in this deal, and there's nothing I'd do to attempt to refute those as basic facts and legitimate concerns. Yet, I still have no problems with this trade. Here's why:

A) Sean Gallagher might turn into a very good pitcher, but chances are decent that he'll become something closer to a serviceable #3 or #4 guy. That certainly has value, but in terms of play on the field, it's reasonable to think that even if Gallagher blossoms into solid #2 starter, he and Gaudin should essentially be analogs of each other for several years, with Gaudin likely being better in the immediate future. The Cubs will pay more money for the privilege, but they have it, so who cares?

B) Rich Harden might turn into a hospital patron, but if he doesn't, and he remains healthy, he's a more dominating pitcher than Carlos Zambrano. Yes. I just typed that.

Not only is he more dominating than Z when he's right, he's more dominating than Sabathia, and he's the only pitcher available that can come close to making that dual claim. He is an Ace's Ace if he's healthy, a living trump card, and the chance to have that kind of weapon at your disposal is one you have to take, even if he might just as easily snap in two as deliver on his promise.

If one assumes that Gallagher and Gaudin are a wash, then the cost for Harden was two guys the Cubs didn't need who can't hit well enough for their usable defensive positions, and an A-ball catcher who's blocked twice over who has yet to hit at all. Make Eric Patterson a second baseman and that changes the equation a bit, but I'm not sure the offense makes the defense defensible.

Even if you don't think Gallagher and Gaudin cancel each other out - which is, I think, where most of the issue lies with those who are less than sanguine about the Cubs' end of this - the fact that Gallagher is the only non-fungible, unblocked part of the deal means that the Cubs have acquired a roughly league-average pitcher and a poker hand which could turn into a massive jackpot, for some spare parts and a pitcher with an above-average, but not star-caliber, upside.

In years past, the Cubs haven't even seen fit to step into the casino, let alone approach a table. Now they're all-in, and for the first time in my lifetime, they have a hand that could win the damn pot.

2008-07-09 13:49:38
1.   Todd S
I have nothing to add, except that I don't think Gallagher has a ceiling as high as a #2. Well said, Mr. Smart.

Also: I've missed Mark Prior. It's good to have him back.

2008-07-09 14:19:38
2.   Ali Nagib
I think the other surprising thing was that, while the Cubs have made several trades in recent years for great hitters, both during the season and after (Ramirez, Lee) as well as signing some good pitchers as free agents (Maddux, Lilly, Howry) this is the first time they've made a trade for a top-shelf pitcher lately. In fact, you might have to go all the way back to Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 to find a comparable trade (paging Timmerman...)

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