As the 2008 MLB trade deadline approaches the contenders are trying to pick up that elusive piece of the puzzle that could bring them a World Series ring, and the pretenders are selling in an attempt to make their teams better for next year (the Braves are a perfect example of a team that should do this with Mark Teixeira).
The Chicago Cubs have already made a big move in acquiring ace Rich Harden and starter Chad Gaudin from the Athletics for pitcher Sean Gallagher and outfielders Matt Murton and Eric Patterson as well as an unnamed minor leaguer.
My question is how the Cubs managed to get so much for so little. Harden will be a star in the majors for years. Gaudin will probably be a solid third or fourth starter for the Cubs.
But Gallagher? He'll struggle to be in the Athletics' - or any team's - rotation next year. He's 3-4 this year with a 4.45 ERA.
Murton and Patterson have already been deactivated. And who knows where that minor leaguer is (or even his name)?
Harden was that critical piece of the Cubs' puzzle that could push them up over the edge to a championship. The Cubs are more or less a complete team now that they have him - great pitching, excellent hitting, and superb fielding. Plus their home-field advantage is the best in the majors.
But there's one more move they may want to consider.
Chicago is a bit light in the outfield - they have five players out there, but Daryle Ward really doesn't cut it. With that in mind, if one or two outfielders get hurt, they could be up the creek.
To make sure that doesn't happen, the Cubs should trade Jason Marquis for Darin Erstad, an Astros outfielder. Sports Illustrated has reported that some teams are interested in trading for Erstad. Chicago may want to join in the hunt.
Yes, this trade would be a bit lopsided. But hear me out.
Erstad is hitting over .300 this year and he hasn't made an error yet. The Cubs have a lot of power in their lineup; perhaps they need a player who can hit for average more.
If disaster strikes and one or more of their outfielders gets hurt, Erstad's bat could provide some balance in hitting approach and his glove would be consistent in the outfield.
The Astros entire team - but especially their pitching - is broken. Only one pitcher has more than five wins - Roy Oswalt - but this is still a down year for him (7-8, 4.60 ERA). They need starting pitching for the future. True, Jason Marquis wouldn't be a great solution but it could do. He's gone 6-5 with a 4.78 ERA this season - not terrible numbers.
The bottom line is the Cubs might do well to grab another outfielder because, excluding the ineffective Daryle Ward, they're kind of thin in the outfield. Darin Erstad would give them a bat that hits for average in a lineup full of power in addition to an excellent glove.
Jason Marquis would give the Astros a decent pitcher with which to start rebuilding their rotation.
Both sides win.