In Billy Beane, the A’s Should Trust
I learned my lesson (for the 82nd time) this year, that you can never underestimate Billy Beane. After he traded away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher leading into the season, I said the A’s had conceded 2008. They’re happily in 2nd place in the AL West, well over .500. What the **** do I know. Anyway, I think the Rich Harden trade definitely was one worth making for the Cubs, and was probably smart on the A’s part as well.
At first glance, the A’s got completely ripped off. Which probably means Beane got a steal. Sure, Beane was fleeced on the Tim Hudson deal after Dan Meyer decided to suck upon being dealt to Oakland, but there’s no doubting Beane’s track record — he’s awesome. Beane’s already received at least equal value in both the Haren and Swisher deals, and most of the prospects haven’t even come close to blossoming yet. So let’s break this trade down on both ends.
For the Cubs, they’re getting an ace who’s capable of pitching seven pretty unhittable innings in a ballgame. Rich Harden is one of the harder-throwing starters in the game, also possessing a devastating change up that he mixes in frequently. The dude needs a milk IV pumping into his bones not to mention a bubble to sleep in so he can be healthy, but he’s dominant when he’s out there, however infrequently it may be. The Cubs are essentially getting Mark Prior once again, and everyone knows how frustrating that can be. They’re rolling the dice and taking a gamble that can have a huge reward, and one that probably makes them the favorite at the sportsbook. If it doesn’t pay off, they’re not going to be hurt too much by losing the players they traded away. If it does pay off, they could be looking at winning a World Series. It was definitely a gamble worth taking.
Not to be overlooked, and a part that many A’s fans were not happy about, is that the A’s gave up Chad Gaudin, too. Gaudin is a valuable tool because he’s a swing guy who can both start (as he did most of last year), and relieve as he’s doing this year and as he did two years ago. And he can pitch well in both roles. I’m guessing the Cubs said there was no deal if they didn’t get Gaudin (who serves as an insurance policy in the trade), because they obviously followed Harden’s recent starts closely where he only went five innings and complained of a dead arm. Now the Cubs easily stack up with the Brewers or any other NL team in the playoffs if they have Zambrano and Harden going. Problem is the chance of Harden being healthy come September is slim.
On the surface, for any one start, equal value for Rich Harden would include only the top pitchers like Johan, Webb, Sabathia, and Beckett, and a few others. Problem is Harden doesn’t have much trade value if he can only give you 10 starts a season, which most teams recognize. In defense of the A’s, they got back four players for a guy who could be utterly worthless in a month. And on their side, there’s just no way to build a team with Rich Harden in the plans because his health is so unreliable. In exchange, they get Sean Gallagher who can already be their fifth starter and possibly give them more production than Harden over the rest of the year. They’re also getting Eric Patterson who will probably be their second baseman after Mark Ellis departs in free agency. Murton isn’t much of a help in my eyes, just another outfielder. But they’re also getting Josh Donaldson, a Single-A catcher who was the 48th overall pick in last year’s draft.
Donaldson developed considerably last year, putting together an excellent season at Auburn as well as a good season in low-A ball once he signed. He showed good power, stole bases, and walked more than he struck out. Not at all bad for a catcher. Kurt Suzuki isn’t the long-term solution for the A’s at catcher, but by 2010 when the A’s will be stacked, Donaldson could be the guy. I think Beane did a fine job here, and I certainly think the Cubs are taking an extremely worthwhile risk. I think the deal works on both ends. And have faith, A’s fans. As for Cubs fans, just keep your fingers crossed, and remember you can still win this even if Harden gets hurt.