If baseball is like poker, then the Brewers went all in, and the Cubs called.
Something now tells me the Cubs might just have an ace in the hole and are ready to raise the bet.
When Jim Hendry pulled the trigger on the Rich Harden deal, he did so in a very non-Hendry-like fashion.
Call the trade a pressure decision to match the Brewers, call it a risk, call it what you will. No matter what you call it, the Cubs have a better rotation with Harden than they did with Sean Gallagher.
Now, with a little over two weeks left before the trade deadline, and the Cubs looking to put more room between themselves and the rest of the division, Hendry is playing the chips.
Kevin Hart was recently called up by the club. He is 2-1 with a 6.62 ERA in the bigs this season, and was 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA in Triple-A Iowa. Hart's past 14 innings have yielded only four runs.
Sean Marshall has also been seeing a good amount of playing time. He pitched two relief innings in Saturday's win over the Giants, and recorded a pair of good starts against the White Sox and Cardinals.
One can look at these two players and say they are simply up because of performance. One can also say that Hendry is showcasing two of his young, available, and experienced arms.
When I first saw the Harden trade details, I was surprised to see Marshall not headed to Oakland. He's marketable when deadline time rolls around.
Marshall is a big lefty with good stuff, he has experience starting and working out of the bullpen at the Major League level, and he is young and looking for an opportunity.
I believe I would be ignorant if I said the Cubs were not looking at moving Micah Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir has good upside, but with Derrek Lee currently manning first base and righty killer Daryle Ward as his backup, it's unlikely there's really a spot for Hoffpauir in the near future.
Hendry could also be looking for any takers for Felix Pie, who has failed to produce in the majors, and now he has even failed to produce in Triple-A. Pie is hitting .268 with six home runs, 30 RBI, and six stolen bags.
He hit .362 in 2007 with the I-Cubs. After hitting only .222 there, Pie was sent to Mesa, Ariz., for an MRI on his hand on June 23. Assuming they also put Pie with a rookie league hitting instructor, he's been raising his average quickly ever since.
An interesting prospect who could garner some trade talk is outfielder Jason Dubois. In 41 games with the Iowa Cubs this season, he has clubbed 17 home runs, 35 RBI, along with a .342 average and a .451 on base percentage.
On July 10, Dubois hit three home runs in a 5-2 victory.
The question is, if Hendry is looking to add another piece to the puzzle, who is it going to be?
Chicago will still be in the market for a center fielder. Jim Edmonds will not be around forever and Reed Johnson is not a consistent enough hitter. As mentioned, Pie is not the answer.
I've heard early rumblings that the Cubs are interested in Freddy Lewis Jr. of San Francisco.
Lewis is young but would be a downgrade from Johnson in the hitting department, and if anyone saw the Washington catch, we all know Reed is no slouch on defense.
The free agent market in center field doesn't look good either. The list involves former Cubs Jacque Jones and Corey Patterson, and current Cub Edmonds. Only Patterson and Rocco Baldelli are under the age of 30.
Mike Cameron is there, but he has a club option on him. He'll likely be kept by the Brewers, since Tony Gwynn Jr. is not progressing too quickly.
Pitching is something any team could always use, especially during a stretch playoff run.
Obviously, with the acquisition of Harden, the Cubs won't be looking at A.J. Burnett anymore.
Ted Lilly is on for two more seasons. Carlos Zambrano is locked up and it's unlikely Ryan Dempster will leave Chicago after this season due to free agency.
Reports have Rich Hill back on track, throwing strikes consistently. Apparently they tweaked his mechanics to rid him of the backwards lean he had with his shoulders.
On that news, a lefthanded pitcher is unlikely, so no Randy Wolf.
Greg Maddux is on the market again, but his no trade clause and age will likely scare the Cubs off.
After the implosion of Carlos Marmol on Saturday, the Cubs will be very smart to look for bullpen help, especially with the unknown of Kerry Wood's arm.
Jon Rauch is available from Washington and he's been hot this season. According to the Nats' website, they will likely ask for top prospects or young, Major League ready players.
Enter Marshall and Hart. It would be a shame to let two more young arms go, but Rauch is only 29. He's also proven he can handle the pressures of closing a game if Wood's arm finally melts down.
Marshall would finally get a shot at the rotation in Washington with this move and Hart could find himself as a bullpen guy in the bigs.
Financially, Rauch would come cheap: $1.2 million this season, $2 million next season, and a $2.9 million club option for 2010.
Rauch has 17 saves, a 2.91 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP so far this season.
The only real obstacles on this trade are Washington asking too much, or another serious contender like Boston outbidding Hendry.
So in case that deal doesn't go through, the Cubs can always turn to Colorado, who has Brian Fuentes on the block.
Fuentes is 33 and is a free agent next season. He wants to stay a closer so Chicago might not be the best suitor. Then again, he doesn't have a no-trade clause.
He saved 31 games in 2005, 30 in 2006, and 20 last season. He stepped into the closer role after Manny Corpas imploded and has recorded 14 saves this season with a 3.50 ERA, and 1.22 WHIP.
Since it's unlikely we will see Jason Marquis headed out of Chicago anytime soon, the Cubs have a five-man rotation set for the run.
I don't envision them trading for another starter unless Harden breaks down between now and July 31.
Either way, Marquis is still a Cub, for better or worse.
There is one insurance policy though, and it isn't Sean Marshall.
Reports have said the Cubs tried out free agent pitcher Freddy Garcia in Arizona earlier this month. Garcia will likely not be ready until late August, and that might be giving him a quick comeback.
But look at what the Cubs will gain with him.
Garcia has playoff experience, he won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005. He was an All-Star in 2001 and 2002 with Seattle. In his nine years in the league his has failed to win 12 games just twice. He was 1-5 last year but was set back due to a leg injury that required surgery.
Last season, along with a 12-14 record in 2002, are his only two losing seasons. His last two full seasons were 14-8 in 2005 and 17-9 in 2006, both as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
Garcia will come at no cost to the Cubs on the player end of the deal. Money will be the issue with him. If Garcia will come cheap to a contender, especially one willing to wait for him, the Cubs will be a top contender for him, considering they have no need for him now.
Bullpen work may also shy Garcia away, but he is a veteran, and sometimes a World Series ring is worth it. Since he's somewhat of a liability a short term contract will likely be best for both sides, even if the Cubs pro-rate him for just this season.
Either way, if the Cubs can get "Fast Freddy" cheap and for the bullpen, he's definitely worth the risk. Garcia is one of those guys, like Edmonds, who can only help this team by getting him.
Outside of Garcia, there really isn't any free agent pitchers worth going after (I highly doubt Jeff Weaver can recall the magic again). But there are some good potential deals that the Cubs can make.
If Hendry has the move to make, look for him to pull the trigger. He's committed to winning and improving a team that is on the road to October already.
Who knows, Hendry's next move could be the one that helps the Cubs end their 100 years of World Series impotence.