Did Scott Kazmir Kill a Rich Harden Trade?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 28, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 26: Rich Harden #40 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the pitch during the game against the Cincinnati Reds on July 26, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

On Thursday afternoon, the significant news on the waiver wire in Major League Baseball was that claims had been made on the Brewers' Trevor Hoffman and the Cubs' Aaron Heilman and Rich Harden.

While Heilman is garbage and Hoffman wasn't likely to leave Milwaukee, the thought of Harden leaving Chicago sparked instant debate. With the right-hander's contract expiring in five weeks, the temptation for the Cubs to acquire depth for their farm system would have to be strong.

There was a lot of speculation about which team made the claim on Harden, with the Minnesota Twins eventually being identified as the team that won the claim. The Twins are currently in a fight with the White Sox and Tigers in the American League Central, and are within smelling distance in the Wild Card as well.

As Friday progressed and the wonders and hopes of the Chicago faithful raced around the Harden issue, another waiver deal popped up and surprised a number of people on Friday afternoon.

The Angels traded a couple of prospects to the Rays for 25-year old lefty Scott Kazmir.

Why this matters to Cubs fans is that, within a proximity that cannot be mistaken for coincidence, the Twins acquired Ron Mahay and Jon Rausch to fill their bullpen, and have reportedly withdrawn their waiver request for Harden.

It appears the Kazmir trade killed any hopes the Cubs had of acquiring prospects for Harden.

You're probably wondering how the Angels unloading a couple minor leaguers for a guy with an 8-7 record and an ERA nearing 6.00 could end discussions surrounding one of the hottest pitchers in the National League.

It's simple: Alex Torres.

Torres was recently listed on Baseball America's Hot Prospects list at no. 12, and has had a spectacular season with two of the Angels farm teams. At just 21, Torres has established himself as a top tier left-handed pitching prospect this year with a combined 13-4 record and a 2.75 ERA in 26 games.

After the dialogue of which team would want Harden came the heated discussion of Harden's value in a trade at this point in the season. Some analysts thought Harden could fetch a player off a 40-man roster, while others thought the Cubs would be lucky to get back two mid-level prospects.

When the Angels traded Torres to the Rays for an underachieving Kazmir, Harden's trade value undoubtedly skyrocketed. Granted, Kazmir is signed for two more seasons (at over $10 million per) while Harden's a free agent after this season, but the current season's body of work would indicate Harden being a better pitcher to acquire for a pennant push.

It appears the Cubs might have been able to make a deal to send Harden to Minnesota, but the Angels trading as much as they did for Kazmir killed any trade the Twins were willing to make for a five-week rental.