A Harden Day's Night: Cubs 7, Reds 3

The Cubs beat the Reds 7-3 last night, but I know all any Cubs fan wants to discuss this morning is the Cubs' acquisition of Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the A's, which was announced a couple of hours before game time.

So. What do I think? I haven't changed my mind. There's no doubt that Rich Harden has a great arm and can be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game -- when he's healthy, which he hasn't been since 2004, the only year he's spent an entire year in a major league rotation without spending some time on the DL. If he can avoid getting hurt, the Cubs have countered Milwaukee's acquisition of CC Sabathia -- though Jim Hendry says it wasn't a counter-move, that he's been after Harden for several weeks, and I believe him -- and in addition, strengthened their bullpen with Gaudin, who has a good arm and familiarity with Lou Piniella (he pitched for Piniella in Tampa). I want to stop here briefly to point out the hypocrisy of Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti, who yesterday practically begged Hendry to make this deal rightfreakingnow, and then today, after Hendry actually did so, raised the injury caution flag.

Hey, Jay! Got whiplash from turning this around so quickly?

At the ballpark, news of the deal spread by buzz -- overheard cellphone calls, then checks ourselves to confirm the rumors. BCB reader BartlettBob, sitting with us, let me use his iPhone to take a look at BCB, where one particular person was ecstatic, with many of the rest of you expressing happiness, but also caution due to the injury risk. And then the Cubs did something that I don't think I've ever seen before in a situation like this -- they posted news of the deal on the scoreboard and made a PA announcement, which was met with a loud ovation. (And my apologies to BCB reader aisle 209 -- with all the commotion regarding the trade, I never did get a chance to stop by your seat last night.)

These aren't the old Cubs, indeed.

Of the players sent to Oakland, in my mind the only one who might make enough of an impact to make the Cubs lament losing him is Sean Gallagher, who will move right into the A's rotation, and who has a chance to be a good starting pitcher for a long time. It should be mentioned that Harden is only four years older than Gallagher and is under the Cubs' control through the end of 2009. If healthy, this makes a deal where the Cubs have a slightly older and far better starter in exchange for a young guy who might get better -- but that's far from certain. Farewell to Matt Murton, vilified by some, loved by others, who never had much of a chance to play with the Cubs. He'll get it in Oakland, and good luck to him. I was never fond of Eric Patterson, who could play several positions, none of them well, and seemed to have all the baseball smarts of his brother. As for Josh Donaldson, many here loved the choice when he was picked a year ago, but he was struggling in the Midwest League and with the emergence of Geovany Soto, he is far from major-league ready.

Good job, Jim Hendry. And stay healthy, Rich Harden. (And don't forget the added benefit of getting someone who can speak Canadian with Ryan Dempster.)

This raises the question: which pitcher goes? The Cubs shipped a hitter and a pitcher (Gallagher and Murton) off the roster and added two pitchers. They won't carry 13 pitchers -- so who's gone? It may be, at long last, time to DFA Jason Marquis.

Now, before the salivating masses yell "DFA!!!1!!1!", let me remind you what "DFA" actually means. "Designated for assignment" means the club has ten days to do something with the player, and maybe the Cubs can take those ten days and make a trade involving Marquis, even if they have to eat a fair portion of Marquis' deal for 2009. It'd be worth it, because Harden is under contract for a reasonable price for next year. We'll find out something later today after it's announced whether Harden will start Friday or Saturday -- he was scheduled to start for the A's on Friday vs. the Angels (a start Gallagher will make now), and Friday was to be Marquis' turn. We await developments.

Note on this notes column by Toni Ginnetti in the Sun-Times, which contains this erroneous information:

Tuesday's trade wasn't the first between Hendry and A's general manager Billy Beane, and the history between the GMs aided completion of the six-player deal.

"We hashed out a lot of names over the last few weeks," Hendry said. "[Beane] is blunt, honest, he tries to trade talent for talent. We got what we wanted, and I'll be rooting like heck for those guys [the Cubs traded]."

In one of Hendry's first deals as Cubs GM, he got Mark Bellhorn from Oakland for Adam Morrissey. Last year, Hendry got Jason Kendall for Rob Bowen.

Mark Bellhorn was acquired on November 27, 2001 -- and that deal was made by Andy MacPhail, who was GM until July 5, 2002. Hendry did make a deal with Beane before last year -- he engineered the deal in which Michael Barrett was traded from Montreal to Oakland and then to the Cubs in exchange for Damian Miller at the end of the 2003 season. You're welcome, Toni, for the correction.

This trade reminds me of the Rick Sutcliffe deal in 1984 -- the Cubs gave up someone, Joe Carter, who was destined for stardom and who became a World Series hero. Sutcliffe led the Cubs to their first postseason play in 39 years and won the Cy Young Award; the 96 wins the '84 Cubs had is the most in the last 63 years. They didn't make the World Series, of course, but that wasn't Sutcliffe's fault. This deal has the chance to take us farther, to the Promised Land. Let it be so.

Oh, yes, there was a game last night, too. Well, Ryan Dempster became the Cubs' first 10-game winner, and except for the 4th inning where he got wild and walked four, allowing his only run, he threw a solid game. The Cubs hitters waited out Aaron Harang to the tune of seven bases on balls, and timely HR from Mike Fontenot (a 400-foot blast with no wind) and Geovany Soto put the game away early. There were also fine defensive plays from Jim Edmonds and Aramis Ramirez. The only sour note was a shaky 9th inning from Bob Howry, which forced Lou to get Michael Wuertz throwing with two out. Even the booing of Dusty Baker when he came out to make a pitching change was muted. We've moved on. The Rich Harden Era begins later this week -- Harden, who wore uniform #40 with the A's (the same number as Sutcliffe, for you numerologists), will undoubtedly get it gifted to him by its current wearer, pitching coach Larry Rothschild (who has worn three different numbers as a Cub coach, #40, #41, and #47).

So the Cubs match the Brewers' raise. Wouldn't it be fun to see Harden and Sabathia match up in Milwaukee later this month? Could happen. What a great ride this season has been, and it's barely into the second half. Fasten your seat belts, the best is yet to come.

Nice grab!
Jim Edmonds makes a diving catch of Jerry Hairston's fly ball

Nice hit!
Mike Fontenot sliding into 2nd after his 6th inning double

I got it!
Aramis Ramirez catching Brandon Phillips' popup in the 8th inning, with Ryan Theriot right there to help, and Mike Fontenot wondering, "What's going on over there?"

Cubs win!
Jay Bruce strikes out to end the game

Click on photos to open a larger version in a new browser window. All photos by David Sameshima

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