Change-UpJuly 08, 2008
Cubs Land Harden
By Patrick Sullivan

The Cubs get Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin, the Athletics get Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson and Josh Donaldson.

"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."


Nice blog! It depends on how high you see Gallagher's ceiling being. If he's no better than a 3 I think the Cubs got the better end. I wrote about this tonight as well.

I'd put it differently. I wouldn't say that Beane won this deal, just that he took what may be the best deal he can reasonably expect for Harden knowing he might get injured again at any time. Harden's velocity was reportedly down his last start or two...

Having lived with Harden on his team for several years and multiple injuries I think Beane pulled the trigger not wanting to bite his nails for another couple of weeks.

I heard on ESPN last night that the Cubs might get Harden, and my thoughts were pretty much like yours... I was like "Why would Beane give him up?" to "Well, he gave up Zito, Mulder, and that other guy and they all went downhill. Only Hudson has survived Beaneless". So I figured then if the Cubs get him, especially this early, there must be something the A's see that isn't apparent quite yet. Naturally, the Cubs want a championship on the 100th anniversary of their last one, so they need to keep step with the Brewers.

Is it a cop out to say no one won this trade? Perhaps the A's will get more actual production out of this deal in the long run, but the Cubs didn't have a lot of long run value out of either Murton or Patterson... and the Cubs are one franchise that are in short term only mode. A World Series contender maximizes team value and is about the only way that many of the Cubs front office stays employed after the ownership change.

The Cubs need to win now, the organizational decision makers don't have long term incentives right now, so all they need is to get the best players now, and that's what they got.

Reportedly, these 2 teams have been working on this deal for nearly a month. It was actually one month ago when the Cubs sent a scout out to watch the A's/Giants and the media initially assumed the Cubs were looking at Randy Winn, but it was leaked a few days later that they were there to watch Rich Harden. I think the CC deal certainly had something to do with this getting done soon after, but the team's had been negotiating for a few weeks according to multiple sources.

Who are these pitchers that Beane has traded that have fallen to injury? Tim Hudson has remained healthy. Dan Haren has to this point. Mark Mulder was for one full year and then he fell apart. Are there other names I'm not thinking about? It seems to me this idea that Beane knows when to trade a pitcher because of injury is just made up, probably by someone who first suggested trading with Billy Beane is a bad thing.

Rich Harden may get injured. He may not. I don't know. The one thing I do know is that if he does get injured, numerous people will point to Billy Beane knowing about it, which in all likelihood seems crazy to me.

I'm not sure I understand the thinking that because Harden hasn't provided value in the past he can't provide value in the future.

If it's injury history, I can understand that.

Certainly Harden meant little to the A's in 2006 and 2007, but that didn't stop him from putting up 77 innings of 162 ERA+ pitching so far 2008. Aside from injuries, does not being around in 2006 and 2007 make him less valuable in 2008 or 2009? The opportunity cost can't be that high for someone pitching as well as he has.

"Know" is a strong word, David, but do you suspect Beane might think there is a decent chance Harden will not be particularly durable?

And it may be true that the Cubs were eying Harden but Buster Olney reported that there was absolutely nothing on the table between these two 36 hours ago.

I bet Billy had an offer out, one that Hendry thought was too much to ask. That changed Sunday night, however.

Making a trade when you're desperate to win is the wrong time to be making a trade. And the Cubs are desperate to win. I like Patrick's take on this deal.

Melvin -

He has been very good this year. Worth approximately two wins or so over Marshall, three above replacement level. The previous two seasons, he was effectively a non-factor.

So in terms of real, on-field value over and above what they have getting, this is minimal subtraction for a bunch of guys that should help the Big League club cheaply for a number of years.

This thinking is only faulty if there were better offers out there, something we do not know.

There is a rather large part of the equation you are leaving out... Chad Gaudin. Gaudin is a 4th or 5th starter type who could be a real asset to the cubs. Right now he is a better pitcher than Gallagher, and you have him for awhile. So even if Harden goes down the team is marginally better in the short run.

Gaudin had an unremarkable 4.71 FIP as a full-time starter last year.

He is not better than Gallagher.

He also has a much improved 3.79 FIP this year after getting his first non-injury season starting under his belt. Gallagher's is 3.98 in a small sample size this year. Going forward for the rest of the year reasonable people could disagree who would do better. Its very close. I still do not think Gaudin should be left out of the equation when discussing the trade. I think he is better than Marquis and takes a lot of the risk out for the cubs if Harden goes down.

PECOTA Projections coming into this year.

Gaudin- 4.31 ERA

Galagher- 4.98 ERA

Now, both players have both improved their stock since then. However, I thought this was a good answer to your hand picked FIP stat for Gaudin last year. Not only has Gaudin been better than Galagher this year, but he was projected to be better going into the season. I would also argue that Galagher is more likely to hit a speed bump and post a terrible rest of the season. Given his age, lack of experience, and lack of major league sample size to project his future performance.

Gaudin takes 2008 risk out of the mix. I agree with you there. But trading one's best young starter is always a long term risk. Gallagher is going to be a good pitcher for the A's for six years, three of them at the league minimum.

I totally agree with that. I would not trade Galagher for Gaudin straight up, and its not close. But my original point is that you mostly left Gaudin out of your analysis when he is an important part of the deal. And then your conclusion was that the A's got the better end of it. Now, I agree that the A's may end up better off from the deal. But Gaudin is an important part of the mix when analyzing it right now.

I should have granted that as well. Gaudin was a key component.

I'm a big Gallagher fan, and it's surprising how overlooked he's been (as a prospect) coming into this season. It's nice to finally see somebody giving him some credit. He blew through 4 levels of the minors from ages 18-21, has the velocity, the body, and a diverse repertoire of pitches.

I think Gallagher is good enough to carry the package on the merits of his own value.

BTW: It's Sean Gallagher.. you have "Scott"

Don't forget to factor in Aaron Harang as "the one that got away" from billy beane... Granted, a reliever turned starter, but still with the Duchsherer conversion in full effect, its does echo a certain parallel....