Are the Cubs Interested in Rich Harden?

As discussed in previous articles over the last few weeks, many of the experts think the Cubs will add a starting pitcher before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st. Several names have surfaced since the first of the month, and usually it is the player that no one knows about that ends up being involved in a trade.

By now many have begin to dream about a Cubs’ rotation that includes C.C. Sabathia. But Buster Olney thinks if the Indians do put their ace on the block then the Brewers would have the trading chips in their farm system needed to land the Cy Young Award winner and not the Cubs….although Olney does feel the Cubs would be right behind the Brewers in their attempts to land Sabathia.

During Dave Kaplan’s show on Friday night, in between reveling in the walk-off win and discussing Carlos Zambrano’s injury with Todd Hollandsworth, the host of Sports Central on WGN casually mentioned the Cubs’ interest in Rich Harden.

A week ago Peter Gammons reported the Indians’ GM Mark Shapiro was “collecting due diligence should he decide that trading C.C. Sabathia will bring him more than two draft choices.” According to Gammons, the Indians are “in the process of thoroughly scouting eight organizations, from the Yankees to the Red Sox to the Cubs to the Dodgers.” As Gammons touted the accomplishments of Sabathia and stated the Cubs probably do not have enough in their farm system to pry Sabathia from the Indians, the Hall of Famer repeatedly brought up the name of Rich Harden.

Here is how good Rich Harden has been this season, when healthy….

  • 4-0 in 10 starts with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP
  • 72 strikeouts and 25 walks in 59 innings
  • 45 hits and 5 home runs allowed in 59 innings
  • Allows just a run more on the road (3.24 ERA) than at home (2.13 ERA)
  • Similar WHIP on the road (1.20) as at home (1.18)
  • Held right-handers to a .179 average with 4 home runs
  • Held left-handers to a .245 average with 1 home run
  • 7 quality starts in 10 opportunities

Harden’s talent has never been a question. The doubts that have surrounded Harden have always been about his health. After all, Harden has never stayed healthy….his 10 starts this year is the most since 2005.

  • Three straight years with two trips to the DL in each season
  • Six trips to the DL in 5 seasons in the big leagues
  • 2007 – Two stints to the DL, made only 7 starts – Strained Right Shoulder
  • 2006 – Two stints on the DL, made only 9 starts – Muscle Strain in Back and a Sprained Ligament in his Right Elbow
  • 2005 – Two Stints on the DL, made 19 starts and appeared in 22 games – Strained left oblique and a Right Lat Strain
  • 2004 – 11-7 in 31 starts with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP with 167 strikeouts and 81 walks in 189 2/3 innings….all career highs

Harden’s Numbers Against the Central

  • Reds – 1-0 in 1 start with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP (5 runs, 4 earned, on 6 hits in 5 1/3 innings with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks)
  • Cardinals – 0-1 in 1 start with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP (3 runs on 6 hits in 6 1/3 innings with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks)

Harden has not faced the Brewers, Pirates and Astros in his career and has never pitched at Wrigley Field.

Gammons reported that he was told, “Billy Beane has the single most important piece to trade to win the Word Series. But the questions is, how many songs do you let Slowhand play before a string breaks.” Gammons called Harden “the most dominant pitcher in the American League right now.

Harden signed a 4-year, $9 million dollar contract back in 2005 with a club option for 2009 worth $7 million….Harden’s 2008 salary, $4.5 million. Harden would be more than bargain for any team that trades for him, but would equally be as big a risk.

The A’s, for their part of this equation, are just 5 games back of the Angels in the AL West and 3 1/2 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card. Oakland is actually in better position to make the post-season than the Indians, but are in a seemingly stronger division with the front-running Angels and the Josh Hamilton led Texas Rangers. Many think the Rays will stick around all year, the Yankees can never be counted out and the Tigers have been playing much better of late….then there are the Minnesota Twins. So would Billy Beane be willing to part with a vital part of this year’s club in order to prepare for the future?

Beane would probably be looking for a package similar to the one he received from the Cardinals for Mark Mulder back in December of 2004. The Cardinals sent Daric Barton, Kiko Calero and Dan Haren west for Mulder….a trade that paid, and continues to pay, dividends for the A’s. Beane then turned around and sent Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks, along with Connor Robertson, this past winter for Bret Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Carter.

Do the Cubs have enough to offer Billy Beane for Rich Harden? And if so, would he be worth the risk? Haven’t the Cubs gone down this road before? Jim Hendry and Billy Beane have worked together before, in fact two deals in each of the past two seasons, so there is a history between the GMs.

An incorrect Internet rumor surfaced last week concerning the Cubs possible interest in Randy Winn of the Giants. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle stated Gary Hughes attended the Giants-A’s games over the weekend. Henry Schulman brought up Winn’s name but stated the Cubs had not phoned the Giants about the outfielder. While Hughes is “based in the Bay Area” as the report pointed out, Rich Harden did start the middle game of the series on Saturday.

With Harden’s injury history, Beane’s asking price cannot be too high….but it is Billy Beane. And if the Cubs are interested in trading for a potential difference maker, it will cost them an arm, a leg and several top prospects.

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein