Baseball Toaster Cub Town
A Not-So-Simple Question
2008-05-23 07:45
by Derek Smart

I've seen a number of folks around these here internets mentioning that, rather than concerning themselves with a middle-order lefty bat, the Cubs should be after a top-flight starter.  Considering that the current staff consists of Carlos Zambrano and several third or fourth guys, and knowing how things went down in last year's postseason, I'm in agreement with the sentiment.  Of course, the problem is, such items don't seem to exist in available forms, and if they did, it would be doubtful the Cubs could put together an appropriate package to make the acquisition. 

With that in mind, I've had this thought and I'd like to put the question to the masses:  If he goes, let's say, five or six more starts without any physicial issues while performing up to his established level, and having done this, his current team makes him available (which there's no guarantee of), would you want to make a deal for Rich Harden?  If so, what would you be willing to give?

If he stays healthy through October, you've got a guy who can pitch you to a championship.  If not, well, we've all seen the high-risk, high-reward scenario play out poorly in these parts. I suppose the root question is what you'd be willing to part with for the shot, and to go with that, how willing you'd be to deal with the psychic drama that, with the Cubs' recent history being what it is, we've all experienced too much of already?


2008-05-23 08:09:14
1.   Derek Smart
I suppose I should kick things off. I think the fact that I'm bringing it up in the first place should signal that I think it's a fine idea. What I'm not sure about is what a fair price might be for both sides. It seems the only sizable chit the Cubs have to play with is Pie, and if that were enough to get it done, I'd make it happen. I like Felix, I think he can be a very good player, but I'd be willing to deal the potential that his future holds for the potential that exists right now in Harden's right arm.

Of course, if any of the Cubs' pitching prospects - the Sean's, for example, separately or in tandem - could make something happen, then by golly, I'd probably do that as well. I just don't know that it would be what the A's would want, and the truth is, I haven't even an inkling of a clue what that would be.

2008-05-23 08:50:12
2.   Ken Arneson
The Cubs ain't exactly swimming in good prospects, are they?

And what prospect the Cubs do have--outfielders (Pie) and pitching (Seans)-- play exactly the same positions where the A's are overflowing in prospects, as well.

Pie might end up being better than at least one of Carlos Gonzalez, Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney, but it's not so clearly true that the A's ought to give up Harden for someone who is not even obviously, clearly an upgrade.

The best trade chip to dangle at the A's might actually be Josh Vitters, as he would be coming up about the same time that Eric Chavez would be going out. So maybe a Vitters-Gallagher combo would do the trick.

However, there are other teams (Red Sox, Braves) who have the middle infield prospects (Lowrie, Lillibridge) the A's sorely lack, who would probably make a better trade fit than the Cubs.

2008-05-23 09:04:16
3.   Derek Smart
Yeah, I don't necessarily view the Cubs as a good fit, and you're right, it's not exactly an inspiring group even if they were ideal partners. It's a bit of wishcasting, to be honest, since Harden's likely to be the only plus-plus guy who could both be available and anywhere near a price the Cubs could pay.

I thought about Vitters after I'd posted and walked around a bit, and that would make sense. The Cubs are going to need another third baseman soon enough, too - I'd have to think the Cubs have considered the possibility of moving Ramirez to first when Lee's deal is up after 2010 - but even a blue-chipper like Vitters comes with risk that he won't turn out, and I'd be willing to do something like that for the potential near-term benefit.

2008-05-24 09:56:17
4.   Sandus
I absolutely love Rich Harden, and I believe that when healthy he's one of the top 5 starters in the American League.

The real issue I have is that "when healthy" is just so elusive. Harden tears his arm/shoulder/whole right side apart every single year, without the added stress of being forced to swing a bat. Trading a #1 pick (unproven high school kid or not) for a guy who may throw 5 pitches and then break down is not good business.

It's for this reason that I don't see this happening on any level. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely and utterly for it, but there's really no deal than can be done without swapping major league ready talent or absolutely overpaying.

I think in this case you'd be much better off looking at guys on Seattle (great rotation despite a terrible record), San Diego (Randy Wolf maybe?), or Kansas City (huge need in outfield), than trying to pry away an injury prone top notch talent from a team that's winning.

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