Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cubs vs. Brewers - Tale of the Tape

A day after Milwaukee officially signs CC Sabathia (sorry, El Capitan Chorizo), the Cubs have returned fire, picking up Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the A's for Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Sean Gallagher and minor league catcher, Josh Donaldson.

The media cycle in Chicago is playing this as an arms race - Get it? Arms race? Because they're pitchers? - where the Cubs are reacting directly to the Sabathia signing by picking up a pitcher of their own.

Certainly Chicago is using this year's current success to trade on a logjam of outfielders - moving Patterson and Murton - and Geovany Soto's All-Star season to send another young catcher on his way out west, but to infer that the move was solely motivated by Milwaukee's acquisition of Sabathia is pretty ridiculous.

Still, for the sake of argument, let's take a quick peek at the tale of the tape.

Key Player:
Milwaukee - CC Sabathia (Vallejo, CA)
Chicago - Rich Harden (Victoria, British Columbia)

Supporting Cast:
M - Matt LaPorta
C - Get: Gaudin; Lose: Gallagher, Patterson, Murton, Donaldson

Years Left on Current Contract / Age:
M - Sabathia is a free agent at the end of the season / 27
C - Harden is a free agent at the end of next season / 26

This Year to Date:
M - Sabathia 6-8 (18 games); 3 complete games; 2 shutouts; 123 K's; 3.83 E.R.A; 1.234 WHIP
C - Harden 5-1 (13 games); 0 CG; 0 shutouts; 92 K's; 2.34 E.R.A.; 1.143 WHIP

Misc. Resume Padding:
M - Sabathia won a Cy Young Award last season; Second in Rookie of the Year voting (2001); Two All-Star Appearances (2003, 2004)
C - Harden has an empty trophy case

History (Recent and Ancient):
M - Sabathia has started no fewer than 28 games in the past five seasons, with a high water mark of 34 last season. He also set a career record of 19 wins last season and has never lost more than 11 games. He has a career ERA of 3.83 and set another career record last year with 3.21. Sabathia has started 237 games in eight years.
C - Harden started 31 games in 2004 (his second year in the majors) but since then has only started 19, 9, 4 and 13 games, respectively. He has been on the DL once this season. His career ERA is 3.42 and is on track for a career year with his ERA currently at 2.34. Harden has started 89 games in six years.

Cheap Joke:
M - (As heard on WSCR this afternoon) So, does the Brewers' team pilot have to stand up before the flights and tell them, "Fielder, on the right side and Sabathia on the left," or is that something that the guys loading the plane have to worry about in terms of weight distribution?
C - Wood and Harden on the same team? Invest heavily in cheap t-shirts and cut-rate silkscreening machines in the Midwest this summer. The frat rats are going to looooooove this. Beavis and Butthead would be proud. Heh... Wood. Huh... Harden.

Final Tally:
Aside from the obvious issue with Sabathia coming off a huge year without any long-term security, there's really no way that the Cubs wouldn't switch places with the Brewers in these trades. Add to that the fact that Ben Sheets is also in a contract year and things could get dicey in Milwaukee if the team doesn't win this season. Then again, they have two shots at retaining a staff ace when the dust settles in November if deals aren't finished before the season ends.

Sabathia has proven to be more durable, has produced better numbers, has been a front of the rotation starter and provides more relief to his new team.

While Harden is a nice pickup and was acquired without any major loss to the Cubs - again, just offloading some jammed positions - he is less than a sure thing. Promising, sure, but only a year younger than Sabathia and with a history of short seasons.

No matter which way you look at it, the Brewers get the better end of the two trades.

(Apparently, I'm not the only one who wonders how the Cubs made out in this deal. Only, he looked at it from the Cubs vs. A's perspective. And spent more energy in looking at the Gallagher angle. I think I mentally blocked that portion until I'm emotionally stronger.)

(Image from:

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  • Well, there's one thing that the Cubs have an advantage on here - Harden is not a rent-a-player since he's got 1 1/2 years left on his contract (plus a reasonable chance to lock him up before that), while Sabathia is gone after this season with about 99% certainty. I can't imagine any scenario where CC doesn't test the free agent market and when that happens, the Brewers simply aren't going to win a bidding war against the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs. Sheets might be slightly more likely to consider a deal with Milwaukee before he hits the market, but if I were a Brewers fan, I wouldn't count on that, either.

    I'd take Sabathia over Harden all things being equal, too, but the Brewers gave up more for a rent-a-player while the Cubs got a pitcher who is arguably even better if he's healthy (which is, of course, a BIG if for a franchise that has gone through the Wood/Prior watch for a long time). Regardless, I'm impressed that Hendry is pretty much going all-in this season. If you're a Cub fan (which I'm not), you've got to thinking that if Harden is healthy in October, putting Big Z and Harden back-to-back in the postseason is going to be huge considering how good the offense already is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Wednesday, July 09, 2008 11:58:00 AM  

  • I'm beginning to think the Cubs have a special clause requiring at least two snakebitten pitchers on the roster at all times.

    Maybe they own shares in Chicago's major arthroscopic surgery clinics.

    By Blogger Minneapolis Red Sox, At Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:10:00 PM  

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