The Cubs are going into the All-Star break with a little extra swagger, having the best record in baseball and sitting atop the NL Central.
Pulling off a deal to shore up the starting rotation and the bull pen at the same time doesn't hurt either. Rich Harden coming to Chicago is a high risk, high reward deal, however, The Cubs did get some insurance in the deal, Chad Gaudin, who appears to be a very versatile right hand pitcher who has had roles as a starter and reliever in the majors.
Harden will be the number two starter, and what a great number two he can be. Gaudin will be in the bullpen, where he can take some pressure off of Marmol, Cotts, Howry, and Wood. The Harden, Gaudin deal seems to really shore up the pitching staff, that is if everyone can stay healthy. Gaudin, Marshall, and Marquis are all possible fifth starters, however, it looks like that spot with go to Jason Marquis.
The Cubs are in a good position going into the All-Star break, they have the pieces to keep winning. There is no doubt the Cubs have the inside track on the NL Central title.
Jim Hendry has stated that he is in no hurry to make more trades. Remember, the Cubs do have seven All-Stars, and there is no point in adding players just to add them. When Soriano comes back and plays left, the Johnson/ Edmonds platoon will be back in full force and so far it has been working well.
For the first time in a long time, the Cubs don't really have any pressing needs.
As for the deal for Harden and what the Cubs had to give up, Patterson, Murton, Gallagher, and Donaldson were not a huge price for what the Cubs got back. Murton and Patterson were not going to get consistent playing time, and in Oakland its a strong possibility they will.
Gallagher is the gem of the deal, he is a young pitcher that has already started to find his way in the majors. He was in the process of being sent to the bullpen when the trade happened, so for this year, the deal doesn't hurt the Cubs. It would not be at all surprising if Gallagher turned out to be a very solid major league started.
Josh Donaldson is a player not many people know, he is a minor league catcher who looks to have some pop in his bat. The Cubs seem to be set at the catcher position for a while, so once again dealing Donaldson is not a huge sacrifice.
The Cubs have been able to keep almost all of their top prospects besides Gallagher. Josh Vitters, Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Ceda are all still in the farm system. It looks like a great trade by Jim Hendry and has the potential to end a certain long draught Cubs fans desperately want to be over.
This half season for the Cubs has had it's ups and downs, with many more ups. Being in first place and having the best record in baseball is something Cubs fans are not used to. The Cubs have hit in the clutch and displayed an amazing offense. High points include sweeping the White Sox and ironically the low point was getting swept by the White Sox.
With the Cubs getting healthier and adding a few new pieces to help during the stretch run, this should be a very interesting second half of the season.