By Jason Wojciechowski on July 10, 2008 at 1:26 AM
Second post on the Rich Harden trade, with some outside commentary.
First, I feel worse about the whole thing, but I don't think it's as dire as everyone else seems to. There's a lot of "my goodness, is this the best we could do for a pitcher of Harden's caliber"? And I think Joe Sheehan gets it mostly right: nobody has any idea what Rich Harden is. He could finish the year with a 2.50 ERA, he could finish the year with exactly the numbers he has now because he gets hurt in his next bullpen session (remember: one quality start in his last four, and a notable decrease in velocity ...). This isn't the 2004 Rich Harden the A's traded, but the 2008 version, the one who hasn't just been hurt, but has been chronically hurt, and not the way Bobby Crosby has, but in his pitching arm. The A's weren't going to pry Matt LaPorta from the Brewers or Joey Votto or Jay Bruce from the Reds or Josh Vitters from the Cubs. Harden simply isn't worth that much. Maybe you'd like to see the A's have picked up Felix Pie in the deal or Rich Hill, but you know, would Rich Hill instead of Eric Patterson really have made us feel better? Pie instead of Gallagher? Outside of Geovanny Soto or maybe Vitters, the Cubs don't have any young players anybody would feel excited about.
Christina Kahrl is much more down on the deal, and she's where my invocation of Pie and Hill come from. "Where's ... somebody with real upside?" she asks. Maybe they just couldn't get Pie from the Cubs, or maybe the A's don't actually like Pie and would rather have the average guy they know will be average (Murton) than the guy who might be awesome but might hit .230/.260/.400. In the end, Kahrl labels this a salary dump (though a misguided one), but I think I agree with Sheehan's idea: this is a high-risk asset dump, getting something for him while you still can.
Ken Arneson says what I think a lot of A's fans feel, which is that the A's gave up one of the most exciting pitchers in the game and got back nobody who arouses any kind of excitement at all. He's exactly right, and he's also smart enough to realize that this doesn't necessarily make it a bad trade, but it does make it one that hurts.