As the first shoe dropped in what should prove to be an exciting July, two teams led by sabermetricians showed their hand as at least partial sellers, trading two of the game's best pitchers to the NL Central.
Chicago Cubs acquire Rich Harden
Cubs get: Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin
A’s get: Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Josh Donaldson
Harden is one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy. Unfortunately, “when healthy” is a phrase which has defined his career. Harden has made six trips to the disabled list in six seasons.
Chad Gaudin can go from the bullpen to the rotation if necessary, but is best used as a middle reliever. Gaudin is an average reliever, but generally consistent, and could pitch some valuable innings down the stretch.
Gallagher is a young pitcher with limited upside, but is a classic Billy Beane acquisition. Beane is stocking up for another run at the AL West title, though Gallagher could pitch for the A’s this season, and aid their 2008 push.
Matt Murton walks, hits for average power, and could hit for average. He’ll likely roam one of the outfield positions in Oakland regularly early in his tenure.
Patterson, the younger brother of former Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson, can be an above-average second baseman. He walks and has some pop from a non-premium position.
Josh Donaldson is the final key piece to the trade from Oakland’s end, but may be the most impressive. Donaldson could be a very good catcher, and he walks a ton. Defensively, he’s a few years away from being a major-league caliber catcher, but his arm and bat could help him make the jump to the bigs as soon as 2008.
Cubs, by a slight margin. The Cubs acquire the top-of-the-rotation starter they have needed since the frequent injuries of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior began to hamper their success.
Harden isn’t a free agent until after the 2009 season, so the Cubs can wait a year before paying the oft-injured flamethrower.
The Cubs gave players they weren’t using (Murton) and players at a surplus position (Gallagher, Starting Pitcher; Josh Donaldson, Catcher).
The A’s fair well, and all four of the players they picked up could start for them as soon as this year, but the Cubs set themselves up for a deep playoff run.
Milwaukee Brewers acquire CC Sabathia
Brewers get: CC Sabathia
Indians get: Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, Player to be named later
The CC Sabathia sweepstakes is over, and in a surprising twist of fate, the Brewers are the winning suitor. The Brewers gave up their top prospect (LaPorta) for Sabathia, who is a free agent after the 2008 season.
The Indians pick up the power hitting LaPorta, who was likely the apple of the Cleveland front office’s eye.
Bryson is an average pitcher, and a decent prospect, but may never spend consistent time at the major-league level.
Indians, by a landslide. The Indians traded essentially nothing for a great prospect. Sabathia made it all but clear he would not re-sign with the Indians after 2008, and though they could have received draft-pick compensation upon his signing elsewhere in the offseason, LaPorta is likely significantly better than any player picked at the compensation draft slot.
The rest of the trade is a bonus. LaPorta has huge potential at the plate and could anchor the middle of the Indian’s lineup as soon as 2010, if Travis Hafner’s struggles continue.
The Indians will have a scary lineup with LaPorta likely batting behind Grady Sizemore, the league’s best leadoff hitter, who should eventually find himself in the No. 2 hole.
The small-market Brewers are making a run for the World Series this year, clearly, but will probably lose both Sabathia and long-time ace Ben Sheets in the offseason.
Best of what’s left
- Erik Bedard
- Joe Blanton
- Derek Lowe
- Randy Wolf
- A.J. Burnett
- Huston Street
- George Sherill
- Brian Fuentes
- Carlos Lee
- Brian Roberts
- Mark Teixera
- Adam Dunn
- Adam LaRoche