Chicago Cubs trade for SP Rich Harden

by Fraser Lovat on July 8, 2008 @ 15:03:31 PDT


ESPN reports the Chicago Cubs acquired starting pitcher Rich Harden and starting pitcher Chad Gaudin from the Oakland Athletics for starting pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton, infielder Eric Patterson and catcher Joshua Donaldson.

The Cubs wasted no time in acquiring Harden after watching the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers trade for starting pitcher CC Sabathia.

Harden is 36-19 with a 3.42 ERA in 97 career games (89 starts) as a member of the Athletics, the team he has been with for his entire five-year career. This season, the right-handed hurler is 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, 92 strikeouts (10.75 strikeouts per nine innings) and 31 walks.

Harden is 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA in four starts versus the NL this year and limited batters to a .132 batting average. He is 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA in 10 lifetime interleague appearances, nine coming as a starter, in his career.

The knock on Harden is his ability to stay healthy after finding himself on the disabled list six times in the last four seasons, including a one-month stint on the DL this year (April 10 to May 11) due to a shoulder injury.

Another issue for Harden might be moving from the pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum to the hitters' park known as Wrigley Field, although he likely won't be shorted on run support there. The Cubs are 33-10 at home this season and have scored 276 runs in those contests.

Gaudin sports a career record of 24-23 with a 4.33 ERA in 161 games, including 50 starts. The right-hander is 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 26 games (six starts) this season. He was moved to the bullpen May 9 before Harden returned from the DL and is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 20 games in relief.

Gallagher, one of the club's better prospects, was promoted to the Cubs in early May and has gone 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA 12 games, 10 of them starts. He was 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA at Triple-A Iowa before his call-up. With starter Carlos Zambrano (elbow) back from the DL, the Cubs had planned to move him to the bullpen before this blockbuster deal.

Murton has been nothing more than a fourth outfielder for much of his career with the Cubs. He's a career .294 hitter in the majors and teased Cubs fans with two solid seasons in a part-time role; he posted a .297-13-62 line in 455 at-bats in 2006 and a .281-8-22 line in 235 at-bats in '07. He has 10 hits in 40 at-bats in two separate stints this year.

Patterson has been up with the Cubs three separate times this year, hitting .237 with a homer, seven RBIs and two steals in 38 at-bats. He had a .320-6-28 line, with 11 steals, for Iowa. Patterson was once a low-level prospect for the club. Like his brother (outfielder Corey Patterson of the Cincinnati Reds, who also came up with the Cubs), although to a lesser extent, Eric struggles with plate discipline despite decent power and speed. He gives the A's a diverse utility player who doesn't necessarily fit Oakland's player model.

Donaldson batted a combined .335 with nine dingers and 23 RBIs in 173 at-bats with the rookie-league Arizona Cubs and low Class A Boise in his pro debut in 2007. The Cubs' second-round pick was considered one of the organization's top-10 prospects by Baseball America entering 2008. Despite his .217 average, six homers and 23 RBIs in 235 at-bats with Class A Peoria, he's known more for his bat than his defense.

Harden's fantasy value increases now that he is a member of the Cubs. He will be pitching for a team with a much better offense, even though he will be pitching in a less pitcher-friendly park. The switch from the AL to the NL will also help his value, as he does not have to face the designated hitter. Pitchers typically fare better in the NL than they do in the AL.

Gaudin will likely be used in the bullpen and does not appear to have any immediate fantasy value.

Gallagher should immediately enter the A's rotation and has relevance in AL-only leagues, particularly deep ones. The move to the pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum could increase his value, possibly making him worth watching in deep mixed formats or for spot starts. He has increased his velocity a bit in the past year, getting his fastball to hover in the low 90s; he recorded 49 K's in 58 2/3 innings with Chicago.

Murton is also worthy of AL-only consideration, although possibly to a lesser extent. His role remains unclear given the club's crowded outfield, but the A's have been in the market for a right-handed bat. If he plays, he'll likely platoon and could see enough at-bats to produce in shallow AL-only formats, although it's speculative.

Patterson has little relevance outside deep AL-only formats, and Donaldson is only worth considering in full-retention AL-only leagues.

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About Fraser Lovat

Fraser is a Hot off the Wire Analyst with KFFL and has been with the company since 2007.

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