One day after the Milwaukee Brewers announced newly no-period CC Sabathia as the newest member of their ballclub, Jim Hendry decided he had better put the fork down and make a move of equal significance. Hendry countered the Brewers' acquisition of Sabathia by making a move to bring in Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to help solidify the pitching depth for both the starting rotation and the bullpen.
Uh, yeah. If you would've told me a couple weeks ago that the Brewers traded for Sabathia while giving up their top prospect and future stud Matt LaPorta while the Cubs landed Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton, I would've broke out the champagne right away. Here's what the Cubs gave up:
The jury is still out on Sean Gallagher as he could become a good middle of the rotation guy. Gallagher had some outstanding strikeout to walk ratios in some games, in limited innings as well. Against the Rockies, Gallagher had eight strikeouts in just over five innings of work. Against the White Sox, Gallagher fanned nine in six innings. The problem with him is that he tends to get too cute with batters, which runs up the pitch count and shortens his leash to remain in games. Lou Piniella's reaction to Gallagher in that White Sox game a week and a half ago basically told everyone what he thought of the young right-hander.
Looking through the other names the Cubs gave up, there really isn't too much there. Matt Murton is your typical Billy Beane acquisition; a guy that is very patient and doesn't hit for a lot of power. I always thought Murton didn't get his fair chance with the big-league club, but he never made the most out of any opportunities handed to him. His numbers against lefties are pretty good, but he absolutely can not hit right-handed hurlers.
As for Eric Patterson, he hit Sweet Lou's doghouse during the first game of the three game set at the Cell. The Cubs' organization decided last year that it would be best to convert a guy that has played second base his entire life and to make him a left fielder. That worked just swimmingly well. Not only does Patterson not have the offensive numbers to be just a below average corner outfielder, but his defense was just flat out terrible. If the Athletics stick with Patterson as a second baseman, he should have a good career in the majors as a utility infielder.
And Josh Donaldson? A sandwich pick in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, Donaldson burst onto the scene in Short-Season A ball with Boise. He hit .370, put up an OBP of .470, hit nine dingers and drove in 45. His defense left something to be desired as he had a disgusting amount of passed balls. He was promoted to Low Class-A Peoria for the 2008 season and not only has his defense been bad, his offensive numbers have taken a huge downfall. At the time of the trade, Donaldson was hitting .217 and only had an OBP of .276. He does have six homeruns and 23 RBI's, but that's a huge dropoff over what he did last year in Boise. Keep in mind that Peoria is only one level higher than Boise. I don't know what Billy Beane sees in this guy, but more power to him. The Cubs are already set at catcher with Geovany Soto raking and with Wellington Castillo down on the farm as an insurance option.
So here's how I grade the two big trades over the last 48 hours:
Milwaukee Brewers: B-/C+
Chicago Cubs: A+
St. Louis Cardinals: TBD
Of course I'm going to get called a homer (among many other things), but the Brewers gave up one of the best prospects in the game for a two and a half month rental. Sure they'll be getting draft picks in return when they inevitably lose Sabathia to the Yankees, but LaPorta is going to be a thorn in the side of many American League teams in the next few years. And how can you not give the Cubs an A+ for this trade? They pick up not only Harden, but Chad Gaudin who can be both a starter and a reliever. Gaudin is a huge upgrade over what the Cubs currently have in the rotation in a guy named Jason Marquis. And all the Cubs had to give up for these two gentlemen was Sean Gallagher, a corner outfielder that can't hit righties, a second baseman that plays out of position, and a catcher that can't hit his own weight in Low-A ball. They didn't even have to give up Felix Pie or recently rejuvenated Rich Hill. Congratulations Jim Hendry. It took six years, but I have finally grown to appreciate you as a General Manager.
I'm not done yet. Notice I put the Cardinals in my little report card. You would have to imagine that they would get involved with a pitcher, and fast. Now that the Brewers and Cubs have made their moves, the pressure is all squarely on their shoulders. You wouldn't have thought that they would have chose to pursue Harden after the Mark Mulder trade, where Billy Beane just absolutely owned Walt Jocketty. But keep an eye on A.J. Burnett. He's the next domino to fall and going to the Cardinals makes a lot of sense for all parties. Burnett wants a change of scenery and going to a National League team would be a very good fit for him. The Cardinals can't keep getting shutouts from Joel Piniero...can they?
Even if the Cardinals make a move for someone like Burnett, it'll be hard to beat what the Cubs did to get Rich Harden. The Brewers got their number two pitcher and the Cubs got their number two pitcher. It's going to be a fun three months in the midwest.