Rich Harden to DL ...er Cubs
The Chicago Cubs have countered the Milwaukee Brewers trade with one of their own. While not the proven veteran that CC Sabathia is, few can match Rich Harden's stuff as a pitcher. That said, few players have ever been as injury prone as Harden has over his career.
This trade came to fruition out of no where. That is not to say the A's just started trying to trade Harden; GM Billy Beane just felt he would not get enough in a trade to give up a talent like Harden. He had become too injury prone and certainly was not expected to be as reliable as he has been this year. Now that Harden started this year with a 5-1 record, 92 strikeouts in 77 innings, and a sub 2.50 ERA, Beane and the A's probably felt like they should trade him while they still can. Sure enough, there were reports on his July 1st start that Harden's velocity dropped, and he labored through 5 innings against Chicago on the 6th in his first loss. Not necessarily meaning a DL stint is on the horizon but warning signs are showing.
No doubt the Cubs are taking a risk here, but they did not give up a top-end prospect in the trade. Sean Gallagher is a decent middle of the rotation pitcher who could possibly be a #2 guy, and Matt Murton / Patterson are solid OF's. Murton in particular has been an OBP monster but has had a tough time breaking into the Cubs lineup for years.
Imagine Billy Beane's thought process with Rich Harden. In 2004-2005, Harden looked like a breakthrough talent with a low ERA and high strikeout rates. Then in 2006 and 2007, he pitches 70 innings total. All of a sudden in 2008 when the A's expect nothing out of Harden, he starts off the year hot (albeit with a DL stint) and thus has trade value around the league again. If you own Harden in a fantasy league, you might want to use the momentum of this trade to make a trade of your own while Harden's value is up.
The Cubs look to be one of the top contenders in the NL, if not the top contender. Chances are, Rich Harden is going to pitch well when he pitches healthy. This trade will largely be decided by whether or not Harden is there for the Cubs in the stretch run and through the playoffs.