A Trip Around the Minors...

In this week's edition of ATAtM, news on some new All Stars, the addition of a regular to the ATAtM Lineup, and much more...


Iowa


Felix Pie-Pie is on a 7 game hitting streak, dating back to Independence Day. Over that stretch, he's hitting .406, most of them singles. He's struck out only 4 times over those 32 AB's. I think both of these are telling signs that the Cubs brass may finally be getting through to Felix that he doesn't need to swing for the fences every AB.


Rich Hill-On D.L., rehabbing in Arizona


Jeff ND-Jeff ND pitched his best game since joining the Iowa staff, and maybe his best game all year, on the back half of a doubleheader. Minor league doubleheaders are only 7 innings long, so his 7 inning performance was technically a complete game. In the game, he gave up 7 hits, 2 earnies (both coming in the 7th), and struck out 7 in taking the victory. But the thing that far and away impressed me: Zero walks. He only had one clean inning, but he also was able to strand runners in a few innings after stolen bases and moved them into scoring position.


Kevin Hart-Hasn't pitched since the July 7th edition of ATAtM, and was expected to toe the bump tonight, until he was recalled today.


Bonus-Micah Hoffpauir was named PCL Hitter of the Week for the week ending July 6th, after hitting .485 and slugging 1.000. While his 8 game hitting streak ended, he had another strong performance last night, going 3 for 5 with an HR and 4 RBI's.


Tennessee


Welington Castillo-Castillo has been added to the regular ATAtM lineup, thanks to his nomination to the Futures Game. Castillo came off the 7 day D.L. on July 5th and has hit an average .267, but has a .352 OBP. He has managed to score 3 runs in 5 games for the Smokies.


Tyler Colvin-Colvin is in the midst of a modest 5 game hitting streak. During that streak, he has 3 doubles, 2 triples, and has scored 7 runs. He has also added 11 points to his batting average, now at .242. Colvin was a streaky hitter in college and that has carried over to his professional career. Let's just hope he starts having more peaks in his batting than valleys.


Donnie Veal-Veal had another strong outing on Monday, but didn't figure in the decision. He only threw 5 and 2/3 innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen, who blew the 3-1 lead 2 innings later. Veal's only run was earned, but he struck out 9 in the effort. Veal hasn't lost a game in exactly one month.


Jose Ceda-To say that Ceda's switch from the rotation to the closer's spot has been effective would be an understatement. After an ERA of nearly 5 as a starter at Daytona, Ceda has reversed course since joining the back end of the Smokies bullpen. In 9 games over 13 and 1/3, he has only yielded 2 runs. His WHIP is sitting at 0.98. He has 20 K's, good for an average of 13.5 K's per 9. He has faced 16 batters with runners in scoring position. He has given up two hits, 1 run, and one walk. 7 of the batters he's faced with RISP have struck out.


Bonus-The Smokies added 3 more guys to the All Star team, joining Donnie Veal. Doug Deeds, (the TD position player of the 1st half), Mitch Atkins (the TD pitcher of the 1st half), and Nate Spears will play in the AA All Star game. Deeds and Atkins were broken down here, so here's a little more on Nate Spears. Spears, acquired in the Corey Patterson deal, has hit .299 with a .382 OBP this year.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Thomas must've read the late edition of ATAtM earlier this week and took exception, because since it's release, he's gathered a hit in every game. Over his 4 game mini-streak, he is hitting .412. The only troubling this is that his strikeout numbers are high; he has a total of 81 K's in 324 AB's since year. He added a stolen base to his total, now at 13 (out of 18 attempts).

Bonus-Adam Harben, acquired by the Cubs in exchange for Phil Nevin and a member of the Cubs 40 man roster, has struggled for Daytona this season. He has thrown in 17 games, including 7 starts, and has an ERA of just over 5. He has walked 51 batters in just 49 and 2/3. But two things make the situation a little more promising. First, he has only yielded one earned run in his last 10 and 1/3 innings (over 5 games). Second, he has allowed only one HR all year. Sounds like he needs to worry less about giving up the long ball and more about throwing strikes.

Peoria

Now that Josh Donaldson is toiling in the A's farm system, the Cubs don't have any Top 10 prospects playing for Ryne Sandberg.

Bonus-Catcher Luis Bautista (32nd Round, 2007), the brother of Pirates 3-sack Jose Bautista, has been on a tear lately. He has had at least 2 hits in 7 of his last 10 games, raising his overall batting average from .308 to .368. He's only has 155 AB's on the year (he spent most of his time behind Donaldson), but has managed to hit 9 HR's and 30 RBI's. He has an OPS of 1.082.

Boise

Josh Vitters-Vitters has only played in 3 games since the late edition ATAtM, going 4 for 13 (.308 average) and dropping his average to .333. He is currently 6th in the Northwest League in batting. In the last two games, Vitters has collected 6 RBI's, bringing his total to 17, good for tops on the team and 3rd in the Northwest League.

Bonus-Josh Harrison, the Cubs 6th round pick from a month ago, is having a solid season at Boise. He is hitting .298 with 7 of his 17 hits going for double. He has a good eye, taking 15 walks while striking out only 11 times, good for a .446 OBP. He has 6 stolen bases in just 19 games.

TD Recommends: Whiffle, Paul DePodesta, & Moonshots

So, you're a cool ass teenager. You get a sweet idea to go all Ray Kinsella and build a mini-Fenway for you and your buddies to play some Whiffle on. Then some bitchy neighbors and jerk off lawyers try and ruin all the fun. Eff that. TD recommends you check out this great article from the New York Times for more on this story. Yeah, we're lawyers here. But we're rootin' hard for the kids. Damn the man, boys. Damn the man. Save the Empire!

I've known about ex-Billy Beane right hand man, Moneyball star, current San Diego Padres front office assistant, and fellow Blogger, um, blogger, Paul DePodesta's blog for a while now. But, until today, didn't see a whole lot of point in passing it along to be honest. Today, however, DePodesta has a nice little post up that gets you inside the head of baseball GM around the trade deadline. TD recommends giving it a look. Good stuff.

And, finally, Dunn's moonshot in today's homer-fest is worth another look. It hit the friggin' building across Sheffield, below the Lakeview Baseball Club's AC sign. That's about 480-490 feet. Which is a long way to hit a baseball.
[Mechanized bull noises in background]
Crash Davis: Well, he really hit the shit outta that one, didn't he?
[laughs]
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: [softly, infuriated] I held it like an egg.
Crash Davis: Yeah, and he scrambled the son of a bitch. Look at that, he hit the fucking bull! Guy gets a free steak!
[laughs]
Crash Davis: You having fun yet?
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Oh, yeah. Havin' a blast.
Crash Davis: Good.
[pause]
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!
Crash Davis: He did know.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: How?
Crash Davis: I told him.

Cubs ready to call up Jason Dubois?

Rumor has it that the Cubs might be ready to purchase the contract of the greatest minor leaguer since Crash Davis, Jason Dubois. Let's look at why the Cubs would make such a move. At the current time, the Cubs have 3 OF's on their 25 man roster...ReJo, Edmonds, and Fuku. Yes, DeRo plays in the OF regularly and D-Ward could chug around the grass if needed, and I guess Ronny C would be the emergency OF, but the need is definitely there for a true fifth OF. The other options on the 40 man roster aren't too promising, except Micah Hoffpauir, but the Cubs feel that he is essentially Daryle Ward. Sam Fuld is hitting .249 at Tennessee, Jake Fox is at .268. The Cubs aren't going to touch Felix Pie for now. And that's it for guys who could play OF. So that leaves the open spot on the 40 man roster.

But why Dubois? Well, he hit 3 HR's last night. But one night doesn't make the man. But over the last 10 games, he has hit safely in 9 of them (he didn't get a hit as a pinch hitter in the first game of last night's doublheader at Iowa). Over the last 10, he's hitting .469 with 8 HR's, 14 RBI's and 14 runs. Needless to say, he's hot (it may be the Giambi-esque mustache). But the best part about purchasing Dubois' contract? When Sori comes back from the D.L., you can put him on waivers without losing much. If he gets picked up by another team, what have the Cubs really lost? A guy they gave a shot to a month and a half ago because they needed some emergency OF depth? If he clears, you can send him back to AAA and he can continue to amaze people at how well he can hit AAA pitching.

Rich Harden: How good is he?

For those of you in Cubs-kingdom (aka Cubsdom) that are concerned with the Rich Harden deal here is a little video of what the possibilities of Harden. This quick clip is from a game against the Angels in the first inning. He took 9 pitches, all strikes, to throw out the side. His stuff, when he is on, is magical.

Minor league: Manager smells?

I was giong to let Lionel and Jumbo control the airwaves for a while with all the trade information and necassary facts that had to be devlivered. However, I could not let this video go as it Gold Jerry Gold.

If Lou could incorporate some of his own body parts, smells, odors and other human issues into his arguements with the umps the more effective it can be.

The Day After: Continued reaction on the Cubs trade for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin

Wow. That is one sexy picture up there. Rich Harden in Cubbie blue. I haven't had this big of a trade boner since Nomah came to town. Lovin' it.

As for the rest of the world, there's some mixed results. Let's do some Milli-Vanilli style sampling here to give you a peak on what some of the baseball world that I respect is saying about the Cubs huge trade:
  • Baseball Prospectus had several really excellent articles up today on this deal. Somewhat surprisingly based on the mixed sentiment in most everything else I've read on this deal, BP was overwhelmingly positive. Let's start with a bit of Joe Sheehan's tellingly titled article "Free Lottery Tickets?" ($):

The thing is, I stand by everything I said yesterday…and this trade still makes sense for the Cubs. They didn’t need to make it, they do have the best team and a difficult roster to improve upon, and the last thing any team needs is to make a move because someone else made a move. Yet with all that, well, this is basically a free Rich Harden. If you’re the Cubs, the risk involved in making this trade is so low as to make it a no-brainer. The package of players they gave up will not be missed. Sure, Sean Gallagher might have become a mid-rotation starter in the Jason Marquis mold, and Josh Donaldson could find his way out of the woods and eventually have a career. It doesn’t really matter; the Cubs didn’t trade anything with enough value to make them regret this deal. There’s no Matt LaPorta in here, no Carlos Gomez, no top-50 prospect or high-upside player who could rack up 2000 hits or 200 wins and torment them for 15 years.

That invites the question: What were the A’s thinking? If they didn’t get back anything of significant value for Harden, why did they trade him? Why did they move him with three weeks to go until the trade deadline, just as the Indians dealt Sabathia? Why didn’t they target one very good player instead of getting four guys, none of whom are great prospects? The only reasonable answer is that this is selling high.
*****
This is not to say that Harden is damaged goods, that he’s going to get hurt, that the Cubs got Sirotka’d. This is to say that no one in this deal, and no one breaking it down on the internet, has a firm grip on what Rich Harden is. He could be one of the 10 best pitchers in the National League. He could also be to the 2008 Cubs what Mark Prior was to the last two editions—a potentially great pitcher who never takes the mound. Anyone who says with certainty what Harden will be over the next 12 weeks is just kidding themselves, because he’s already doing things he hasn’t done in three years, things he has very little experience doing for a full season.
*****
Even if Harden is healthy, which is a big "if," he’ll have less impact on the Cubs than Sabathia has on the Brewers. The primary differences are that Harden is replacing better pitchers than Sabathia is—Gallagher for the Cubs versus Seth McClung or Jeff Suppan with the Brewers—and Sabathia throws an inning more per start than Harden does. There's also the question of which pitcher is better, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s call them even, giving them both expected RA of 3.00.
*****
The trade ends up looking like one that made sense for both teams, given the expectations on each and each organization’s relative focus. The A’s are trying to build for 2010, while the Cubs are trying to not go 101 years without a championship. The A’s didn’t have much reason to bet on Harden’s upside, given the money owed to him and their chances of winning this year, while the Cubs not only have reason to, they were offered the pitcher for a price they could happily pay. Neither team is likely to lose this trade, and it seems clear that both could win it. That’s the definition of a good deal.

  • Next up, BP's transaction guru Christina Kahrl goes off. Kahrl goes through the trade piece by piece and makes the point that the A's really didn't receive a whole lot in return for 2 pitchers as talented as Harden and Chad Gaudin by analyzing which player the Cubs gave up is actually the "best." Kahrl admits it's probably Gallagher, but wonders why since Gallagher, by all indications, seems to be fairly good in most areas and great in none. She says Murton's not great and, at 26, is as good as he's going to get. Eric Patterson isn't it as he's not a good defensive 2B by any measure, and therefore probably doesn't have a future at the position with the A's focus on defense, and isn't a good enough hitter to qualify as a prospect at any other position. And Josh Donaldson, a 21 year old struggling in A ball, definitely isn't it. Here's Kahrl:
I'm as big a Billy Beane fan as any person who prefers to stop short of going all fanboy or fangirl over the man—that's for real genius, not canny baseball executives—but it's really, really hard to see what it is that the A's got that would compel them to accept this offer, as opposed to treat it as a conversational cul-de-sac to head back out of and see whether a real deal might be struck. Why make a deal with the Cubs, who just don't have all that much to offer? As Kevin Goldsteinthree of their eight best pre-season prospects, that's relative. Put it this way—who is the best player that the A's received in the deal? We'll try and answer that in a second, but there's a second question that has to be asked in conjunction with the first: How likely is the best player received in the deal to have a significant role with the club in 2010 (when Harden would have been a free agent signed by somebody else) or 2011 (when Gaudin would have expended his salary arbitration seasons and potentially also left for a team and contract of his choosing)?
*****
On some level, I segregate this deal into two segments, because I'm merely human and I create patterns where none might exist. First, I put Gaudin for Gallagher to one side as something of a push, where the benefits are pretty straightforward: Gaudin's getting expensive through arbitration, where Gallagher's five years removed from free agency and three years younger. Consider it an exchange of an established fourth starter for a potential fourth starter, with the attendant cost savings. The problem is that this leaves you with Patterson, Murton, and Donaldson for Harden. Somebody would bite on that? Billy Beane would bite on that? Where's Felix Pie? Where's Rich Hill? Where's... well, something or somebody with real upside? This is it?
*****
Now, consider the cost to the organization—you get a potential ace starter, albeit one who, like John Tudor in the '80s, you can't be too sure how long you have him for. Happily, Harden comes with a club option for 2009, so if he's healthy enough to want to keep for $7 million next year, that's the opportunity to retain a fragile ace at a level of compensation significantly below market pricing. Gaudin is Cubs property for at least two seasons, although he'll be arbitration-eligible the next two winters, but that's still a matter of adding a quality pitcher for two and a half years, one who would cost more than that on the open market, and one of a caliber that there were no guarantees that Gallagher was going to be able match. As for the talent surrendered, on a practical level it boils down to Gallagher—who you just replaced with two better starters—two position players you didn't like and probably couldn't use, and a Low-A catcher who wasn't doing anything to convince people he's the next Jeff Goldbach, let alone that he might become a prospect. noted in January, theirs isn't a great farm system, and even if you're landing

There's one constant meme within the discussion of the Harden-to-Cubs deal. That is that the A's, understanding Harden's medical situation better than anyone, knew his true value—what Joe Sheehan called "a free Rich Harden"—and saw it as the return they got. I'll leave the trade analysis to Joe and Christina, but I'd like to look at this concept: do the A's really have a better handle? I agree with the way they've dealt with him and with the conclusions they've come to, but even with the changes made coming into the season, they don't have a great track record on injuries. Bobby Crosby has been the most vocal about his injury situation, but he's not the only player that's been unhappy. It's a new staff, and relative to expectations in 2008, the A's have had a reasonable return. With guys like Harden, Eric Chavez, Crosby, and others on this roster, they were never going to have a low DL day total.

For Harden, the focus has to be on the fact that for a couple of years now, the A's haven't been able to keep him healthy. On his own program this offseason, and making some mechanical changes, it appears that his results have been better than what the A's could provide. Is it a fluke? Who knows at this stage, but that's data. The Cubs, clearly in a win-now mode, got an upgrade with some downside. The Cubs were willing to take on that risk after a sign-off from their own doctors and the word of Lewis Yocum, though there's one outside factor that I'm still following up on. While Harden is always going to be an injury waiting to happen, I think that the risk, and the team's relative assessments of that risk, are going to be the deciding factor in the perception of who "won" this deal. Given his last start, Cubs fans ought to be watching Harden's velocity closely.


  • Phil Rogers made an appearance on "The Beat" with Charlie Steiner on XM Radio today. I was workin' hard takin' note during the interview and, therefore, hardly workin'. Here's some highlights: Steiner introduced Rogers by playing a song with the chorous of "ya ain't lost nutin' that you can't do better without." Not sure of the song title, but a not so subtle message from Steiner. Rogers hopped right in, saying "I actually think Oakland got a lot of talent. It's the kind of deal that Billy does very well where he takes 1 guy and turns him into 3 and 4 which is why he's able to compete with his $50M payroll year after year." "Oakland got quite a bit of talent-maybe more than the Brewers got for CC." And, "I think the Cubs got a ticket in the Rich Harden lottery." Rogers went on to say that this deal was more about the advancing in the playoffs than about trying to make them. Rogers said the Cubs got exposed for lacking a true #2 starter in last year's playoff loss to Arizona. Rogers then added, "The fact that they got CG in this trade is a nice little blessing," and stated that any pitching depth lost in Gallahger was made up for by getting Gaudin. A final interesting point from the article was a discussion of Billy Beane's motivation for moving Harden, stating that this was the "first time in a long time that he's had a window to trade Harden." Rogers stated that the A's wanted Harden to come back and pitch at end of last year after a near complete return from injury in order to showcase him for a potential trade over the winter. But Harden shut himself down and wouldn't pitch, saying the A's were playing "insignificant" games and he didn't want to risk further injury. Rogers believes that this made Beane want to trade Harden even more as it was viewed as Harden putting himself ahead of the team.
  • Next up is an article that appeared in the Sun-Times citing AccuScore and concluding that the Cubs came out the real winners in these Sabathia/Harden deals. One other note on this one-scroll to the bottom of the article and check out the "Related Blog Posts" bit. Towel Drills: Bigger. Than. Jebus.
  • Harden made an appearance on "The Waddle and Silvy Show" today. The Sun-Times has a transcript of the interview here.
In fact, one baseball man called Oakland's decision to trade Harden now -- while he's pitching great and the A's are still in a race -- a "serious red flag." Meanwhile, in a potentially related development, a scout we surveyed reported that Harden's velocity hasn't been quite the same in his most recent couple of starts, since his eight-inning, 11-strikeout two-hitter against the Phillies on June 26. But the Cubs have watched every pitch he has thrown for weeks. They saw him hit 96 mph on the gun Sunday with their own eyes. So clearly, they'll take their chances on the odds of getting him out there 14 or 15 times between now and Sept. 28. True, Harden comes with no get-your-four-trade-chips-back health guarantees. But unlike Sabathia, he's also not a rental. The Cubs get to keep him for a year and a half. Plus, they add very useful Chad Gaudin to their bullpen -- and, potentially, to their rotation in case of (a) emergency, (b) a Harden health mishap and/or (c) a patience meltdown by Lou Piniella with, say, Jason Marquis. "The Cubs," one scout said Tuesday night, "have the best rotation in the league right now" -- CC in Cheesehead Town or no CC in Cheesehead Town.
*****
Gallagher might not be a pitcher with Harden's star power. But he's exactly what Billy Beane was looking for, said an official of one team -- "a major-league-ready starter who can go straight into their rotation right now but who they get as a 'zero-plus' player. He can pitch for them for 2 1/2 years before he can even go to arbitration." The rest of the package Oakland got seems devoid of centerpiece players. But it's packed with inventory pieces who should all play in the big leagues.
*****
Asked Tuesday whether the A's got enough for one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball, one scout chuckled: "For a guy who might break down tomorrow? Yeah." But the Cubs understood that, too. Understood exactly what they were dealing for in Harden. He might miss a turn or two. Or 10. But at this point in the life of their quasi-tragic franchise, they weren't interested in playing it safe. Not anymore. They were interested in dealing for an arm with a chance to change games and rewrite their history. Well, they got one. We'll now authorize the entire population of the North Side to begin holding its breath on that. The good news is, you can all resume inhaling again in a mere 3 1/2 months.
  • Goat Riders of the Apocolypse again has some great coverage of the reaction to the deal around the dubya dubya dubyas here. Lots of great info at that link, like this: "Oh, and about that dead arm thing. Checking with Fangraphs, Harden's fastball this season has averaged 92.6 MPH. In the past seven days? 91.9 MPH. I wouldn't worry too much about that yet." And here's a really great story they pulled from this ESPN article:

On Sunday evening -- the same night when word broke that the Brewers had worked out a deal for CC Sabathia -- Hendry indicated to Beane for the first time that he would make Gallagher available in a Harden deal, but it would create a problem: If Gallagher was traded, the Cubs wouldn't have the kind of depth they needed to deal with an injury.

"Let me call you back," Beane said.

Beane had an idea. He could fill Hendry's need for depth by adding veteran swingman Chad Gaudin in the trade. He phoned Hendry back on Monday night with the suggestion. "That could work," Hendry said, and the two general managers began piecing together other parts of the trade. Beane called Hendry with a detail of the trade very late on Monday night, California time, figuring the call would switch over to voice mail on Hendry's cell phone because it was so late.

But Hendry answered the phone, wide awake. "Jim, what are [you] doing awake?" Beane asked.

"I'm just laying here on my couch," Hendry said.

  • Finally, Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin made it to Chicago and were introduced today. Some reaction from Harden, Gaudin, and their new teammate, Mark DeRosa:

''It's my first trade. I've been in Oakland my entire career. So it definitely was a shock," Harden said Wednesday, a day after the Cubs obtained him in a six-player trade with the Athletics.

''But it's exciting to come to the Cubs, especially with the talent they have, the reputation they have -- the fans, how passionate everyone is for baseball here. I couldn't be happier."

*****

"I look at myself as whatever they need," Gaudin said. "If they need a starter, I can start for them. If they need a reliever, I can relieve. I like to start. I enjoy starting. Right now it's about staying in first place and winning a World Series. That's what we've got to do. I'll do whatever it takes."

*****

"A lot of guys in this clubhouse don't realize how good this guy is," Mark DeRosa said. "I had the misfortune of facing him a couple times playing in the American League and got a few phone calls from some guys I played with over there in Texas. Everyone says the same thing. When this guy is on the mound, it's one of those rides to the ballpark where you're like, 'I hope I can mix a single in there somehow.' When he's on, he's one of the best right-handed pitchers in the game. Stuff-wise, his stuff is off the charts."

    Minor League Movers

    Iowa

    The I-Cubs parted ways with Ben Broussard late last week, roughly three weeks after signing him to a free agent contract. In his 16 games at Iowa, Broussard hit .267 with 3 HR's. He was released to make room for E-Pat. I heard a rumor that E-Pat's spot may be open again, but I guess I'll have to take a look around and see if that rumor is true. The I-Cubs also welcomed back Jose Ascanio (when Zambrano was activated from the D.L.) and returned Greg Reinhard to Tennessee. Reinhard had actually pitched better at Iowa (3.45 ERA) than at Tennessee (4.20 ERA).
    Tennessee
    The Smokies placed pitcher Alex Maestri and catcher Chris Robinson (acquired in the Neifi
    Perez trade) on the D.L. over the weekend. As Robinson was moved off the D.L., Welington Castillo was removed from the D.L. Assuming everything's OK, Castillo should get some P.T. in before the Future's Game next week. The Maestri move corresponded with the Reinhard move (above).
    Daytona
    Oft-injured Ryan Harvey, a former first round (sixth overall) pick of the Cubs, was once again placed on the D.L. yesterday. The Cubs called up Drew Rundle (14th round, 2006) from Peoria to take his place in the outfield. Rundle's promotion seems more out of need than play; he was hitting .164 for Peoria.
    Peoria
    No Moves Announced
    Boise
    Boise added some of the Cubs high draft picks this week. 18th rounder Jeff Beliveau, 14th rounder Dan McDaniel, and fifth rounder Justin Bristow were all added, following the slew of players Peoria added last week.

    Rich Harden traded to the Chicago Cubs: Reaction

    Reaction is already coming in strong to the Cubs trade for Rich Harden. Let's take a look:
    • Oakland A's GM Billy Beane had this to say about the A's end of the deal:
      "I don't necessarily think we've taken a step back. I think we've taken a step forward for the next three to five years," Beane said. "We were balancing that the club's playing well but also keeping in mind that we've had numerous injuries over the last week. "
    • A part of this deal that certainly should not be overlooked is that Rich Harden's contract takes him through next year. Unlike the Brewers acquistion of CC Sabathia, this is not a rental. Jim Hendry discusses Harden's future with the Cubs:
      "We will have the rights for a year and a half, so that's the other advantage of him not being a free agent," Hendry said. "He has an option that could vest, or we could pick up the option or we could arbitrate. So he certainly has a chance to be a Cub through the end of next year."
    • The only potential drawback to this trade is Harden's health. If Harden can stay healthy (We've heard this before haven't we? Except it went like this: "If Mark Prior can stay healthy.." or "If Kerry Wood can stay healthy...". Let's hope this "if" works out better) this deal has a chance to be an absolute steal for the Cubs. It's unlikely that any of the players the Cubs gave up will be any huge loss-if Harden performs as he's capable and does so consistently this deal will be fantastic for the club. It can be assumed that the Cubs had their medical staff take a strong look at Harden before signing off on this one. Here's a snip for Hendry in that regard:
      “Obviously there’s some risk involved. He’s missed some time but he’s never had any surgery,” Hendry said. “We did extensive work with their doctors.”
    • As for Lou Piniella's reaction:

      "We're excited, really are," manager Lou Piniella said. "He's got really good stuff, knows how to win. He's a welcomed addition. This gives us another weapon. He'll fit in here really, really nice. Let's keep him healthy and pitching and go from there.

      "Jim's been trying to improve our team. He's talked to a few different clubs about our pitching. And yesterday Milwaukee made a nice deal for a left-handed starter and today Jim went out and got real good right-handed pitcher. Good to see he's so competitive. We get a top-of-the line rotation pitcher and a nice piece in the bullpen. This shows the Cubs will do everything in their power to get us where we want to go."

    • Not to be lost in this deal is that we also received Chad Gaudin as part of the package. Gaudin is a very useful reliever and, if necessary, is more than capable of starting. Gaudin will immediately help this bullpen and makes the Cubs pitching staff and rotation even deeper than before. Their lead over the Brewers in that regard has extended even further. Here's Lou on Gaudin:
      "I had Chad at Tampa Bay and he's got good stuff," Piniella said. "A nice hard sinker and a nice slider so he'll fit in good in our bullpen. This was a move where we got a top-of-the-line rotation pitcher and a nice piece in the bullpen."
    • Kudos to Goat Riders of the Apocolypse for their coverage of the Harden reaction. Courtesy of GROTA, here's ESPN's Buster Olney's thoughts on the deal:

      For the Cubs, the trade is a calculated gamble because Harden is nothing less than Mark Prior Redux: He can be dominating, and he can be maddening. He could be the difference between success and heartbreak if he's healthy, and if he's injured, he could be the difference between success and heartbreak.

      Keep in mind, however: Harden has pitched a total of 277 1/3 innings over the past four seasons, and has spent almost as many months on the DL as he's had victories. He comes to the Cubs with many red flags.

      Harden returned from the disabled list on May 11 and, in his first nine starts, pitched as he usually does, dominating hitters, striking out 42 batters in 32 1/3 innings in June, compiling a 1.67 ERA for the month. Some scouts who saw his July 1 start reported that his velocity was down, and he lasted five innings. On July 6, Harden had five erratic innings, walking four and requiring 95 pitches to get through five innings.

      The Athletics mostly have been held hostage by Harden's talent in recent years: He hasn't been on the field enough to count on, but he's been too good, when he does pitch, to simply give away. And the swiftness with which the Athletics and Cubs completed this deal is being read by some rival executives as Beane's moving Harden while he has the chance. "He didn't look as good in his last two starts," one official said, "and the Cubs' offer was a good offer. There were probably months when Billy didn't know if he was going to get anything out of Harden at all, and now he's in a situation when he can get Sean Gallagher for him -- and he jumped at it."

    • Here's the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles's take on the deal, including an interesting point about Jason Marquis:

      "When Jim Hendry called me over to talk last Friday in St. Louis, he had that look about him. It was a look that said he was ready to deal. Hendry had been talking with the Indians about CC Sabathia, but he knew then the Cubs didn't have the right match for Cleveland. I asked Friday and Saturday about Rich Harden of the A's, and I could tell then that was his top target. I wrote that for Sunday's paper, and Hendry finalized things with Oakland GM Billy Beane today, getting Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin for Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson and Josh Donaldson.

      The Harden deal says the Cubs are in this thing to win it all. When healthy, Harden is a No. 1 starter, an ace. Put him in a rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Sean Marshall, and it can take a team to the World Series. Of course, all these guys, especially Harden, have to stay healthy. Harden has had shoulder problems, as has Zambrano. (Marshall would be my preference over Jason Marquis, whom the Cubs can send to the bullpen.)"

    • Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal offers his analysis in this video. Kenny R notes that the deal has been in the works for a month, but the Cubs were reluctant to include Sean Gallagher in the deal. The inclusion of Gaudin in the deal seemed to be the tipping point to get it done. KR says it all comes down to the health of Harden. If he's healthy, the Cubs win this deal. If not, the A's got a pretty good package for a player that just won't stay healthy. KR cites an anonymous GM that thinks Gallagher will provide more wins for the A's over the next year and a half than Harden will for the Cubs over the same timeframe.
    • ESPN's Rob Neyer chimes in on the deal. Taking a longer term view than most, Neyer compares this to a previous A's deal where Rich Harden is Mark Mulder and Sean Gallagher is Dan Haren. It'd be great to see Gallagher reach that level, especially if it were for the Cubs, but I'll trade that longshot for a chance to win this thing this year. You have to. Here's Neyer:

      The key to this trade, from the A's perspective, is right-handed starter Sean Gallagher. Still only 22, Gallagher has already breezed through Triple-A and has a real shot at a long and happy career. I'll spare you the scouting report (which is glowing). But in 70 Triple-A innings, Gallagher has struck out 67 batters, walked 14 and given up three homers. He hasn't been overworked as a pro.

      You know what this reminds me of? When the A's traded Mark Mulder to the Cardinals and got Dan Haren plus two other prospects. Since then, Haren's won 51 games and Mulder's won 22.

      I don't know that Gallagher's going to win more games than Harden over the next few years. I wouldn't bet the house against it, though. And he might even win more games than Harden this summer.

      In fact -- and I'm surprised that I'm writing this -- the A's might be better right now than they were yesterday. Beane's giving up on 2008? Nah. He's just retooling for the stretch run.

    • Some good stuff here from Baseball Musings breaking down the trade for both the Cubs and the A's. They seem to think that this deal is a win-win.
    • And, finally, let's get up some reaction from A's Nation. From a site appropriately named "Athletic's Nation," there's this. They're not too psyched about what Harden brought in return (calling Murton and Patterson AAAA players), they're fully expecting Gallagher to blossom and Harden to go down to injury soon. Maybe they're just bitter?
    • "The Drumbeat" of SFGate.com is not impressed with the return package either. They do seem upset about losing Gaudin, however, which is nice.
    • "Athletics Supporters" is upset in that they believe Harden's best days as a SP are still in front of him. He is, afterall, only 26 years old. They go so far as to call Harden a future Cy Young winner and potential HOFer. Wow. Easy. They're also upset to see Gaudin go. They like Murton to balance their primarily left-handed corner OFs but don't see a fit for EPat.

    Cubs Acquire Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin

    That's right, the Chicago National League Ballclub has acquired Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. And what did they give up? Well, not peanuts, but close. Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Josh Donaldson, and Matt Murton.

    Harden, a 26 year old Canuck, is 5-1 this year with a 2.34 E.R.A over 15 appearances (13 starts). His career E.R.A. is 3.42. He is under contract until 2009, at somewhere around 4.75 Mil. The only issue is his health. In his 6 years in the Bigs, he’s made 6 trips to the D.L. He hasn’t made 30 starts since 2004. Actually, in his last 2 plus years, he hasn’t made 30 total starts. If the Cubs can keep him healthy, he’ll be the dominant #2 starter the Cubs have been searching for. If not? Well, the Cubs are essentially in the same place they were today.

    Gaudin was a surprise addition to the mix. He is a 25 year old right-handed reliever/starter. He’s made 6 starts and 20 relief appearances for Oakland this year, resulting in a 5-3 record with a 3.59 E.R.A. Gaudin was a full time starter for the Athletics last year, starting 31 games and going 11-13 with a 4.42 E.R.A. The Cubs are likely to use Gaudin as a long reliever.

    The Cubs gave up Sean Gallagher, as expected. But the A’s must’ve had some higher opinions than I did on the rest of the bunch. Eric Patterson must be the #2 guy on this list. E-Pat has good speed and has a decent stick, both average-wise and power-wise. I guess the A’s think he’s a future starter. Josh Donaldson was the 48th overall pick last year, so the potential is there. But he was hitting under .220 in A Ball, so he’s hard to project. But he was being groomed as a catcher, a position that is obviously taken for the near future. Murton had to go in any trade.

    Whether this was a response to Brewers or not, it doesn’t matter. The Cubs got the second best pitcher available (after C.C.), gave up a lot less than the Brew-Crew, and killed the momentum the Brewers thought they had. So much for the concept that the Brewers had really gotten lucky in getting this move done before the deadline, allowing C.C. to start more. C.C. Sabathia is making his first start for the Brewers tonight. Reports are that Harden will start either Friday or more likely Saturday.

    Overall, a great deal for the Cubs. They get a #2 starter and a quality relief pitcher for a young starter and some spare parts. They drop 4 guys off their 40 man roster while adding only two, giving them some more flexibility down the stretch. Well done, J.H.

    Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - July 8th

    Now that we've looked at how the CC Sabathia to the Brewers trade affects the Cubs, let's move on. CC ain't comin' to town, let's get over it. What I care about is this: What will the Chicago Cubs do to counter the big move by their NL Central rivals? Lots of ideas and opinions, so let's get goin':
    • Perhaps the most intriguing pice out there in all of Internetland today is this article from the Chicago Sun-Times's Chris De Luca regarding Rich Harden. A sampling:
      "The Cubs have spent a lot of time on the phone recently with Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane trying to pry away right-hander Rich Harden. Expect the phone lines to start burning a little hotter beginning today."
      De Luca correctly guesstifies that if a deal for Harden is going to come, it's going to come late. The Oakland Athletics are currently just 6 games back of the Angels in the AL West and their "rebuilding" year continues to resemble a contending year. If Beane is going to deal Harden, it's not going to be until much closer to the July 31st trade deadline when he has a much clearer picture of his team's shot at the postseason. This might clash with a seeming urgency from Cubs GM Jim Hendry and the rest of the Northsiders to get a deal done ASAP as a response to the Brewers acquisition of Sabathia. Finally, De Luca states that the Cubs "Plan C" is Padres SP Randy Wolf, who Towel Drills took an in-depth look at here.
    • MLBTradeRumors.com, quoting ESPN's Jayson Stark, reminds us that if Billy Beane trades his stud SP Rich Harden, he isn't going to do so cheaply. We're probably talking something similar, though not quite as much due to Harden's injury history, to the Dan Haren deal to Arizona that went down last winter. MLBTradeRumors.com reminds us the high price the Diamondbacks paid to wrassle Dan Haren away from the A's:
      "A reminder: Baseball America ranked Carlos Gonzalez as the game's #22 prospect, and Brett Anderson was #36. The Cubs don't have two players like that. Then add Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, who have combined for a 3.52 ERA in 207 innings this year. Oh, and toss in Chris Carter and Aaron Cunningham for good measure. That was a haul, even for an ace like Haren."
    • "An official from another NL team" shares the sentiment that not only are the Cubs planning to counter the Sabathia deal, but that they're planning to do so quickly:
      "I'd be very surprised if [Cubs GM] Jim [Hendry] doesn't make a move," an official from another National League team said Monday. "Remember, [starter Ryan] Dempster has been a reliever the last few years, so they've got to wonder if he can keep this up all year. [Carlos] Zambrano's had some health issues in the past. Those questions had them looking for pitching before. Now you've got a hot Milwaukee team adding the best available starter. I can't see the Cubs standing pat. Not after this."
    • From Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll (BP freebie):
      "The Jays are not going into a fire sale mode as long as J.P. Ricciardi is in control. Of course, that could change sooner rather than later. The Cubs think they match up well for A.J. Burnett. Remember that Jim Hendry has always had a thing for those 2003 Marlins, in large part because he’s a big fan of their scouting staff."
    • In the same BP article from above, Carroll gives the following blind quotes he received from some calls around the league: "The Cubs will react quickly to any deals in their division."
    • Some original speculation here regarding A.J. Burnett. There was some early season worry that Jim Hendry and the Cubs front office would be limited in the deals they could make and the amount of money they could spend with the pending sale of the Cubs. This speculation turned out to be overblown and the Cubs re-upped with Carlos Zambrano, signed Kosuke Fukudome, etc. We've been assured by Hendry and by others in the front office that they have the green light to make the deals they need to make to put this club in a position to go for it this year. While this has proven true thus far, I think that this leniancy may stop with A.J. Burnett. As TD covered here, Burnett's contract is a potential time bomb. If he's acquired and pitches well, he opts out and you just gave up some top talent for a rental. If he's acquired and he's awful, he doesn't opt out and the club is on the hook for $12M in both '09 and '10. While Sam Zell and the Tribune Co. have been willing to allow the club to do what it needs to do thus far, putting the team in a situation where Burnett is terrible or, worse, injured over the next 2 years and the club is on the hook for $24M is probably pushing it. I don't think Burnett is the best fit for the club anyway-but the unknown in his contract situation and the pending sale of the Cubs makes this one seem unlikely to me.
    • Several teams, including the Dodgers and Orioles, are in the market for a shortstop. The Dodgers have been looking hard at Jack Wilson of the Pirates. Wilson seems to be the name most brought up in the SS market, but here are some other potential SS trade candidates courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com. The 30 year old Wilson is hitting .346/.358/.304 on the year in 148 ABs. The effort is only good enough for a 4.8 VORP-24th among SS's. Wilson has at least $8 million left on a deal that takes him thru 2009 with a club option for 2010. Cubs utility IFer Ronny Cedeno is hitting at a .343/.357/.271 in 129 ABs, good enough to manage a 2.5 VORP. Not much difference in the stats. But Cedeno is 5 years younger than Wilson, is under team control, and is only making $407k this year. What I'm getting at is this: Cedeno won't bring us stud SP, but with the need for SS strong on several teams, the Cubs could get something useful in return for him as part of a larger deal involving multiple teams or in a smaller deal.
    • And finally, as I've been preaching here, getting Rich Hill back on track in time for a September call-up could be enormous for the Cubs. After some pretty horrible outings of late, Hill is starting to show some encouraging signs. The Cub Reporter has some great info on Hill's last start in Arizona:
      "Prior to the game, Rich Hill threw a simulated game that featured his new delivery, and it looks like he may actually have found the cure for his version of Steve Blass Disease.

      He no longer tilts his shoulder and head back to the exent he had been doing (a la Fernando Valenzuela), which allows him to keep his eyes on the catcher's target. That might sound like a simple thing to fix, but we're talking body memory here, and that can be a stubborn force to work against.

      And the results this morning were that he was able to throw his fastball and curve over the plate pitch-after-pitch, just like he was doing in 2006 and into Spring Training 2007 and through most of last season. He was absolutely unhittable today.

      The curves literally buckled the knees of the young AZL Cubs hitters, and (probably more importantly) he was able to consistently throw his fastball for strikes And maybe most importantly, Hill looked relaxed and he even was able to crack a smile at one point. (One of the telltale symptoms of Steve Blass Disease is the inability to smile).

      Now the key is whether he can keep the new delivery in his head and make it repeatable from outing-to-outing. If he can, the Cubs might have the rotation starter they think they need for the stretch run right in their own backyard (Fitch Park)."

    Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors: The Cubs Tradeable Prospects

    As anyone who follows A Trip Around the Minors could tell you, the Cubs aren't loaded with prospects who would be a hot commodity come trade deadline. But let's expand our search and take a look at the top prospects the Cubs have and may part with to make a trade.

    Sean Gallagher
    Current Team: Chicago Cubs
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Baseball America Ranking: #5 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #6 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: A
    Value to Cubs: B+

    Of all the tradeable pieces, you have to figure that Gallagher is the most sought. He's a 23 year old starting pitcher who has proved himself at every level, and is one of the few top Cubs prospects who is major league ready. BA projects him long-term as a #3 starter, and it's easy to see why. While the Cubs need a couple of spare starters, Gallagher is the guy they have to be most willing to part with. The Cubs may be showcasing his potential by keeping him up in the Majors as a reliever, rather than to demote him back to AAA to start. If a major trade happens, Gallagher is likely to be the centerpiece.


    Sean Marshall
    Current Team: Chicago Cubs
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B+
    Value to Cubs: B

    Marshall is an older, left-handed, lower potential version of Sean Gallagher. He is 25 years old, has more PT, and hasn’t proven himself more than a #4 or #5 pitcher. His left-handedness is a big plus, but on the opposite end, he isn't a guy who could come out of the 'pen long-term. One would think the Cubs are likely to go with the we'll trade one Sean or the other approach, so as to not deplete their starting rotation possibilities if the injury bug strikes.


    Donnie Veal
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America Ranking: #6 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #3 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B+
    Value to Cubs: B

    Veal projects as a future starting pitcher, but the question is what is his ceiling. He is only 23 years old and was named the Co-Minor League POY (with Rich Hill ) in 2006, but he followed that up with a sub .500 record in 2007 with an ERA of almost 5. His WHIP is cause for concern, but he strikes out a lot of batters, usually an equalizer among prospects. Veal is at the low end of a number of similarly situated Cubs pitching prospects (Gallagher, Marshall, Hill, Samardzija). Whether the Cubs believe that his value is high or he has the potential to go higher may determine whether they are willing to part with him.


    Jose Ceda
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America Ranking: #4 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #4 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B
    Value to Cubs: B-

    Ceda is considered one of the rising prospects in the Cubs system and since being moved to closer, he has seemed to find his niche. He is a big, strong reliever with a good arm who has a few control issues. That sounds like the definition of a pitching prospect. He isn't likely to be the centerpiece of any trade, but could very well go in a package. Jim Callis believes that Ceda will move into BA's Top 100 list next year. With Wood/Marmol presumably the closers for the future, the Cubs may be willing to move him. His value could increase over the next month, as he will then have 2 full months of closing for scouts to see.


    Tyler Colvin
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America Ranking: #3 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #7 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B
    Value to Cubs: C+

    Colvin was on the fast track to the Bigs last year…some even said the Cubs wouldn't go after any big-name RF's last off-season because Colvin would be patrolling there in '09. But his numbers this year have brought him back down to earth. He still projects as a solid, everyday RF, but a guy who will need a little more grooming. With the corners covered for the foreseeable future, Colvin is one of the Cubs better bargaining chips, which should cool some of those rumors that Hendry wouldn't trade him. His value should be a lot higher next year with another year in his belt, making a move this year less likely.


    Kevin Hart
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Baseball America Ranking: #10 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #12 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B-
    Value to Cubs: B-

    The Cubs got Kevin Hart in the deal that sent Freddie Bynum to the O's, so the Cubs are kind of playing with house money. Hart being placed on the post-season roster last year will definitely help his trade value. He has followed up last year's rise with a solid season (to date) as a starter in Iowa, but has struggled in the Bigs as a reliever. Whether he can regain his form at the major league level could go a long way in determining whether the Cubs are willing to part with him. His trade value may be determined by whether the scouts see him as a starter or reliever in the future.


    Jose Ascanio
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated As Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: B-
    Value to Cubs: C+

    The 23 year old Ascanio has moved between Iowa and Chicago throughout the season, and unless the Cubs acquire another reliever, he may be needed to help keep some arms fresh as we go into September. He hasn't dominated in relief in Chicago or Iowa, but he has been more consistent than most and the current Cubs 40 man roster doesn't have many other options in terms of pen help. While "prospect" relievers are usually less valuable in trades, he does have 11 saves for Iowa and is holding batters to a .195 average, which could make him attractive as a future setup man or closer.

    Tony Thomas
    Current Team: Daytona Cubs (Advanced A)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America: #9 Prospect
    Baseball Prospectus: #10 Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C+
    Value to Cubs: B-

    Tony Thomas is projected as the Cubs everyday second baseman of the future according to Baseball America. The Cubs third round pick from last year has a nice blend of speed and power, but has had a rollercoaster season at Daytona. The fact that he's still in A ball limits his trade value a great deal. He will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Thursday. If the Cubs had a solid 2-sack of the future in their system, he'd probably have a higher value to the Cubs. But the Cubs would be wise, as with many of these guys, to hold on to Thomas for at least another year of grooming before making a move.

    Welington Castillo
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America: Not Rated as Prospect
    Baseball Prospectus: #9
    Prospect Value to Other Teams: C+
    Value to Cubs: C+

    Castillo being named to the Future's Game would appear to help his trade value, as least to some. And while MLB uses some scouting services to pick the rosters, it should be pointed out that a) every team has to have a representative and b) their is usually a shortage of catchers. Jim Callis of BA agrees. Castillo has been a solid catcher throughout his career, especialy defensively, but he's never put up outstanding numbers until his short stint so far at Tennessee this year. But he is only 21 and at a position where the Cubs seem to be set for the foreseeable future (See Soto, Geovany), so a solid month could increase his value, but another year may be best.


    Ronny Cedeno
    Current Team: Chicago Cubs
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: B+

    Ronny C is a borderline starter/backup; a guy whose been given a shot at starting and didn't claim it. He has been a better hitter for the Cubs this year than in the past and his ability to play both SS and 2B should help his trade value. But, his departure would essentially leave the Cubs without a backup SS. There isn't much in the Cubs SS pipeline to replace him and given that The Riot wore down last year, the Cubs are going to need a solid backup SS.


    Micah Hoffpauir
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: B-

    Hoffpauir's biggest detraction is his age. With everyone looking for the next young, hot prospect, the 28 year old who just cracked the majors isn't a hot commodity. He also has a history of injuries. But if you were an AL team looking for a DH who could mash, Hoff would be the guy. Problem is, most AL teams have DH's. In fact, there seem to be too many old, broken-down players who have been forced in DHing. Teams may still look at him as a 1 sack, but it's his hitting ability that could make him attractive. With D-Ward having so many injury issues, his value may be to the Cubs in having a left-handed power stick off ready in AAA.


    Eric Patterson
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: C+

    Patterson is in an interesting position. Going into 2007, Patterson was ranked as the 7th best prospect of the Cubs according to BA and was projected as the Cubs future 2-sack. A year later, while still eligible under BA's prospect standards, E-Pat is gone from the list. The Cubs have groomed him into more of a utility player; it would take a scout to see him as a potentially every day 2-sack for a team to covet him. And there is always the lingering personnel issues...the issues that got him demoted from the Bigs last September. I have a feeling some scouts like him, other don't.


    Rich Hill
    Current Team: AZL Cubs/Iowa Cubs (AAA) D.L.
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: C

    Rich Hill's trade value has bottomed out, given the fact that he is now 1 for 2 in pitching well at Rookie ball. Officially, he couldn't be traded right now, because he's on the D.L., but could be the PTBNL in a trade. I don't see the Cubs being this desparate. A team could potentially be "stealing" a #2 starter and I don't see the Cubs doing this. He has a lot of value long term, as guy's rarely fall off that quickly without coming back a little. I think all Cubs fans believe he still has the ability to come back this year and be productive, and I think management agrees.


    Felix Pie
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: C-

    What a predicament. Everyone looks at Pie and see's C-Pat, and the way Pie has played, it's hard not to. But the Cubs will still need a CF next year and beyond, and there's no reason to sell low on Pie. Everyone needs to remember that he is still only 23 years old, so his best years should be ahead of him. Maybe he won't turn into the superstar the Cubs predicted, but now is not the time to dump him. The Cubs tend to overvalue their own prospects, so I don't see them getting rid of Pie at his lowest value.


    Matt Craig
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: NoNot Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: C-

    Matt Craig reminds me a lot of Micah Hoffpauir. He is a tremendous hitter who has some injury problems. Both play first base and both are getting too old to be considered prospects (Craig is 27). Essentially, as Hoff has moved up the ladder, Craig as followed one step behind. But there are a few differences. Hoff has made it to the Bigs and played decently, Craig hasn't. Hoff has a bit more power, and a few less injuries in his history. A team with a need may give Craig a shot, as he is a extremely patient hitter (38 walks to 25 K's) and a talented one (hitting .341).


    Matt Murton
    Current Team: Chicago Cubs
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C
    Value to Cubs: D-

    Of all the players on this list, Matt Murton is the most likely to be traded, because the Cubs simply have no need for him. Murton is a former first round pick who hits for high average. And that's about it. He doesn't hit for power, run well, or play defense. Teams, including the Cubs, are high on his hitting ability and have been surprised by his lack of power (he has tree trunks for legs, so they should be surprised) and some believe he'll still develop a power stroke. He is essentially a one-position guy, limiting his trade value. But the Cubs, Murton, and other MLB teams know that a change of scenery could help his progress.


    Josh Vitters
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America Ranking: #1 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #2 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C-
    Value to Cubs: C+

    Vitters may be the top prospect the Cubs have, but he is far from being traded. His only success so far has been in Boise over the past month. Long-term, his need will be determined by how quickly he develops and what the Cubs do with ARam, but the Cubs aren't concerned about that now. The Cubs aren't going to trade the their top prospect when his value is so low, and while teams may be willing to take him, he isn't going to be the centerpiece of any trade like a #3 overall pick should be.


    Carmen Pignatiello
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C-
    Value to Cubs: D+

    Pignatiello's trade value lies in the fact that he is a left-handed reliever. After a solid 2007 season, he has struggled, both in the majors and at Iowa. He is 25 years old and is averaging more than a strikeout an inning at Iowa, so scouts may still see some upside in him. The Cubs only used him twice during his cup of coffee, so there opinion of him seems to be down (preferring other lefties).


    Jake Fox
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: C-
    Value to Cubs: D

    Fox is and always has been a good hitter, but his work behind the plate made the Cubs move him around the field, and he now plays mostly OF. He has the power to be a corner OF in the majors, but the soon to be 26 year old needs to find a groove soon or watch his value plummet. There are a lot of guys who have decent power, but nothing else to bring to the table. A team isn't likely to covet Fox, based on what he offers right now.


    Josh Donaldson
    Current Team: Peoria Chiefs (A Ball)
    40 Man Roster: No
    Baseball America Ranking: #7 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #5 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: D+
    Value to Cubs: C-

    Donaldson has struggled mightily at the plate and has only a year of professional baseball on which to judge. He was a 1st round supplemental pick from last year, but given his struggles, he isn't likely to be one of the highly-rated prospects next year, if he is rated at all. His future may or may not be as a catcher. The Cubs probably aren't going to give up on him so quickly and I don't see team clamoring for a guy who's hitting under .220 in the Midwest League.


    Mike Fontenot
    Current Team: Chicago Cubs
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Too much experience to qualify as prospect
    Value to Other Teams: D+
    Value to Cubs: D

    'lil Mikey isn't likely to be traded for a number of reasons. One, he is a one-position player; second base (See Murton, Matt). Two, he seems to have a good chemistry with his teammates (The Riot, Z, etc.). I probably over-value team chemistry, but I think it's important for those guys who sit on the bench every game to be good teammates. Three, he really isn't a prospect. He wasn't considered a prospect when the Cubs acquired him in the Sosa deal, and now he's 28 years old. He is a scrapper, but not the kind of guy teams are going to be coveting in a trade.


    Jeff Samardzija
    Current Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Baseball America Ranking: #8 prospect
    Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #11 prospect
    Value to Other Teams: D
    Value to Cubs: F

    If you are reading this from top to bottom, you may have assumed that I missed Jeff ND. But I didn't. He has a no-trade clause in his contract and given his on-field performance so far, I'm not sure how many teams would want his $10M contract over some of the Cubs other prospects.


    Sam Fuld
    Current Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
    40 Man Roster: Yes
    Not Rated as Prospect
    Value to Other Teams: D-
    Value to Cubs: D

    Fuld's star has fallen fast. A Cub Fans and Lou Pinella favorite primarily for hitting the brick wall with reckless abandon, Fuld was thought to have a shot at the starting CF job in the spring, despite having never been considered a Cubs prospect until a strong showing during the '07 Fall league. But Fuld played poorly at Iowa, and hasn't faired much better at Tennessee. He will be 27 in December and his ability to return to the majors has to be questioned. A team may give him a shot at being a backup CF, but given his struggles in the minors, he probably is on the downside of his career.

    Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors: Sabathia Mania & the Cubs

    Hey...have you heard? The Brewers traded for CC Sabathia. Yeah...this story has been ev.ry.where today. Now that the smoke has cleared a bit on this (Amazing how quickly that happens these days-this thing was just confirmed this morning. Blog speed, baby. Blog speed), let's see how this affects our Cubs.

    I'm not as worried as most about this. As I explained in our earlier Sabathia post, from a longer term standpoint I'm a bit glad that the Brewers sold off a number of highly touted prospects to land Sabathia for 1/2 a season. (That is, of course, if the Cubs win the NL Central and don't get knocked out of the playoffs by the Brewers.) The Brewers are losing one of the top prospects in the game in Matt LaPorta (#23 Baseball America, #31 Baseball Prospectus) now and will be losing 2/5 of their starting rotation in Sabathia and Ben Sheets heading into next year. The deal they made is "only" going to get them about 14 starts from Sabathia and not much else. The Cubs, who are just getting healthy with Carlos Zambrano and, soon, Alfonso Soriano returning from injuries (among others) should be able to withstand the bump that Sabathia will provide only every 5th day. Sabathia, who will surely improve this club both in starting pitching as well as general club morale, isn't going to win all his starts, isn't going to be perfect, and, despite this blast, doesn't add anything to the Brewers offense or bullpen. From ESPN's Jayson Stark:
    The Cubs are a deeper, more efficient and more consistent offensive team than Milwaukee, for one thing. They've scored nearly 70 more runs (475-406). They've outhit the Brewers by nearly 30 points (.283-.255) and have a much better on-base percentage (.359-.324). And the Cubs still have the better bullpen (3.65 ERA to Milwaukee's 4.07).
    As good as Sabathia is, he doesn't change any of those factors as the two teams are set to battle for the division over the 2nd half of the season. Another point that I think is important to the Cubs' 2008 success. Before the Tampa Bay Rays swept through the Red Sox, the Cubs were starting to get a little too much love from the national media. The Rays and getting swept at the White Sox cooled that down a bit. Now, with the Sabathia deal, attention is further deflected from the club and placed on the shoulders of Sabathia and the Brewers. The Cubs, though they're in front, almost take on a bit of an underdog role here for a while where they're able to just go out and produce without consistent requests for Today Show interviews. Additionally, the added strength to the Brewers could push the Cubs into the next level as far as performance goes. Things were getting a bit too cushy when the club had the best record in baseball and were rolling. Having to fight for this division throughout the 2nd half and into the playoffs is, in my view, a very good thing.

    What Sabathia does change in this equation, and what worries me the most, comes in the playoffs. A rotation of Sheets, Sabathia, and Manny Parra is pretty damn scary. I doubt anyone would want to face that. Being in the same division as the Cubs, we wouldn't meet the Brewers until a NLCS, but that currently seems like a very likely scenario (per BP's latest Postseason Odds Report, the Brewers are have a 44% chance of taking the wildcard while the Cubs are at 80% for winning the division). The Brewers, if anything, definitely made themselves better if they can get into the playoffs.

    Sabathia clearly bolsters the Milwaukee rotation and certainly ups the Brewers's chance of competing for this division. But I'm just not freaking out about it. The Cubs have shown they are a very good team. They're deeper, more talented, and less reliant on the long ball than the Brewers. I still think the Cubs take this division. But it just got a bit more difficult.

    Cashner to Sign with Cubs


    According to Insidetheivy.com, Andrew Cashner, the Cubs first pick in the 2008 draft, is expected to sign a contract with the Chicago Cubs later this week, pending a physical on Wednesday. The deal is expected to include a 1.54 million dollar signing bonus, which is less than half the amount given to Josh Vitters last year.

    A Trip Around the Minors...

    The usual Friday edition of A Trip Around the Minors was accidentally blown up in a panic to see more bright, colorful blooms of flame, so here's the late edition...


    Iowa


    Felix Pie-Pie came off the D.L. on July 1st and showed he was healthy by promptly plopping a ball over the fence. Overall, he has looked good since his return. He is hitting .333 since being removed from the D.L. and has a hit in 5 of his 6 games. In his 30 AB's, he has only 4 K's. In comparison, he had 23 K's in 63 AB's with the Big Boys.

    Rich Hill-Hill is still technically on the I-Cubs D.L. and on a "Rehab" assignment, but as reported on TD, he did not fare well in his rehab and may be shut down to get his head straight.

    Kevin Hart-Hart came off the D.L. and has made three starts for the I-Cubs. In his debut since being hit in the head, he threw 3 innings of hitless, walkless, scoreless baseball, K'ing 5. So much for lingering effects. His next outing last 3 and 2/3, yielding no runs once again. Starting yesterday, he threw 5 innings, giving up his first 3 post-concussion runs, but only yielding 3 hits and 2 walks and notching a W.

    Jeff ND-I barely feel that I have to mention Jeff ND's stats, as his numbers are almost always reported (now that he is at Iowa) on the Cubs broadcast, but I'll dig a little deeper. After an average start in his first outing, he has gone downhill. Now, those who think I hate Jeff ND are going to point out that a 6 inning, 1 run victorious performance is not downhill, but when you look past the numbers, you'll see there isn't anything to be jumping for joy over. In those 6 innings, he walked 6. He was helped by a lot by Koyie Hill, who threw out two baserunners, and two double plays. He only had one clean inning. Celebrating our nation's independence, Samardzija took home another victory, thanks to a I-Cubs 7-run 7th inning. In that game, he yielded 4 earnies over 6 and 1/3, getting pulled after getting into trouble after the 7 run inning. Things were a little better this time, with only 3 walks.

    Bonus-Over the last 10 games, Micah Hoffpauir has to be making the Cubs take a hard look at whether he should be back with the Big Boys. He's hitting .432 with a .479 OBP and he's slugging .909. He has 18 RBI's and 10 runs over that stretch, and currently has a nice 8 game hitting streak.

    Tennessee

    Tyler Colvin-On July 1st, Tyler Colvin won the Southern League's Hitter of the Week award, after going 10 for 26 with 2 HR's the previous week. Since then, things have been a struggle, as Colvin went 1 for his next 17. But yesterday he rebounded with a 4 for 5 game. Since June 23rd, Colvin has raised his batting average 15 points. Also important is that he is showing improvement on his plate discipline. He only K'd twice in the past week.

    Donnie Veal-Veal struggled in his last two outings. On June 27th, he was lit up for 6 earned runs over 4 and 2/3. He followed that performance up with a 5 inning, 4 earned run performance last Wednesday. In that game, he yielded 9 hits and didn't strike out a batter. His ERA has ballooned by over half a point thanks to these last two performances.

    Jose Ceda-I recently read an article that said that the Cubs envisioned him as a closer, even when he was starting (and struggling) at Daytona. Since being promoted to Tennessee, that's what he's done, and he's proving the scouts correct. In his 7 games as a Smokie, he is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 4 saves. His WHIP is 1.00. He has struck 17 batters in 11 innings of work, good for a strikeout per 9 ratio of 13.91.

    Bonus-Mitch Atkins (7th Round, 2004), my pick for Smokie Pitcher of the 1st Half, has won 5 consecutive starts. He has a 2.25 ERA over those starts and has walked only 4 batters in 32 innings of work.

    Daytona

    Tony Thomas-Thomas has struggled over the past 10 days, hitting a mere .154 and striking out 11 times. He had his lone big performance on Independence Day Eve, going 3 for 5 with his only 3 RBI's of the past 10 days. A three day layoff may be to blame, as a day off before two rainouts has produced this 10 day stretch.

    Bonus-Marco Carillo, a non-drafted free agent signed by the Cubs in 2005, has gone under the radar for Daytona this year, mostly due to a 5-5 record. But after a short stint in the 'pen to begin the season, Carillo has solidified his position in the rotation. In 12 starts for the D-Cubs, he has a 2.73 ERA and opponents are batting only .204 against him. Last Wednesday, he had his best performance of the season, pitching 8 shutout innings and yielding only 2 hits with no walks.

    Peoria

    Josh Donaldson-Donaldson his only 4 for his last 22 (over 10 days), reverting to his pre-June performance at the plate. Part of the issue may be the inability to get in a groove, as Donaldson has played in only 6 games in the last 10 days.

    Bonus-This week's Bonus goes to my childhood hero, Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg managed the Chiefs to 11 consecutive wins; a streak that was broken on Saturday.

    Boise

    Josh Vitters-Vitters continues to impress as a Hawk. Over the past 10 days, he is hitting .333 with 5 RBI's and 5 runs and a .389 OBP. He hit his first HR of the season, which was actually the first HR of his professional career.

    Bonus-Rebel Ridling continues to torch the Northwest League pitching, and was named the Player of the Week for last week. But his .377 batting average has taken a hit over the past 10 games, as he is only hitting .350. He must be swinging for the fences more, as he had 3 HR's this week. He is averaging more than an RBI per game.

    Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors: C.C. Sabathia Traded to Brewers

    C.C. ya later. Looks like the deal that has been rumored since Sunday is in fact going to go down. C.C. Sabathia has been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for stud 1B/OF prospect Matt LaPorta along with minor league pitchers Zach Johnson and Rob Bryson and possibly 3B Taylor Green.

    Looks like it's time for the Cubs to seriously start looking in the rearview mirror at the Brewers. The Brewers started off rough and have had some key injuries to Yvonni Gallardo and, for a short time, Ben Sheets. On May 19th the Brewers were 20-24 and in last place in the NL Central. Since then, the Brew Crew is 29-15 and have climbed within 3.5 games of the 1st place Cubs, tied for 2nd in the division with the Cardinals. The Brewers will get 2 starts out of Sabathia before the All-Star game and he should be a key cog in their run over the entirety of the 2nd half. This race could well come down to the Cubs/Brewers again this year, with their roles reversed from 2007.

    Long-term, I'm happy in a way that the Brewers did make this move. LaPorta is, by all indications, a stud in the making. And the other players traded seem at the very least to have the potential to turn into good major leaguers. Trading that amount of talent for a Sabathia rental (no way the Brewers pop to re-sign him next year), along with the fact that Ben Sheets is likely going to sign a free agent deal elsewhere for next year as well, and it's clear that the Brewers are going for it hard this year. The price they'll pay is in the next few years...good for the Cubs.

    Kudos to the Brewers for landing the player who is far and away likely the best player available this year. Sabathia instantly makes the Brewers a much scarier team-and the thought of Sabathia pitching in the "JV League" might give me nightmares tonight.

    The question that now remains: how will Jim Hendry and the Cubs counter?