Cubs Land Harden
"Wow, Hendry got the better of Beane." "This is a deal that seems to make sense for everyone." "Wait, maybe the A's got the better of this thing." That has been my thinking, in chronological order. Now let me explain.
Folks who knock the A's will in all likelihood underestimate the market for Harden's services. There are three components to this deal that conspire to bode badly for Chicago when I think about it.
1) Beane's track record trading pitchers; Oakland seems to have a good sense for their own pitchers' health and where they are in their career trajectory path. Beane picking up the phone and offering an Oakland pitcher in all likelihood strikes fear around MLB.
2) Jim Hendry can claim that Sabathia had nothing to do with this, but we all know that not to be the case. Right? Don't we?
3) This gave Beane the perfect opportunity. That this deal just feels below value, that my initial reaction makes me think the Cubs got the better of it, gives me even more pause. Why now for such a dominating performer like Harden? Why not drive the bidding up as July 31st draws closer? I am guessing because Beane knows that the next Harden injury could come on any given pitch and wipe out all of his value.
That said, the rationale from Hendry's standpoint is pretty straightforward. The Cubs give up a remarkable young talent in Sean Gallagher; there can be no downplaying his potential. He's excellent. They give up a 4th outfielder, a 25 year-old Minor League infielder who shows some promise but the clock is running on him and a catcher struggling mightily in AA. It's a modest haul for someone with Harden's dominant track record.
If he stays healthy, the Cubs have a club option and all in all are in for a maximum of $9 million. Again, not much commitment on the financial side either for a club with deep pockets like the Cubs have.
But the calculus in determining Harden's value must include his injury history. He has pitched 149 innings since the beginning of 2006. 149. So from Oakland's side, it goes like this.
This is a guy we have barely relied upon for a few seasons running now, a time period in which we have averaged 84.5 wins per season. We have a nice team this season, too. We now have four players for a guy who has meant very little to us during a stretch in which we were an above average club. This is a lot of addition, and not much subtraction.
Only by entering opportunity cost into the equation can this thinking turn fallacious. I guess that's why I think Oakland might have won this deal. I just do not think there was much of a market for Harden. His extraordinarily high injury risk discounts his value to the point where most teams would laugh in Beane's face if he asked for a top-100 Baseball America prospect like Gallahger, much less one of those plus three other players.
And that's fine with Beane; he can take it. He knows it only takes one team to bite. On the whole, I think Oakland won this thing but I cannot necessarily fault Hendry because I sense that he might understand the risk/reward parameters here. And, as they say, "Flags fly forever."