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.
So in one way, this looks to be the perfect counterpunch to Milwaukee landing Sabathia, and it is. On the other hand, Hendry had been working with Oakland for about three weeks on landing Harden.
Hendry and Beane have a great personal and working relationship that goes back several years. Before the 2002 season, Hendry, then the assistant GM, obtained infielder Mark Bellhorn from the A's. In December 2003, Hendry couldn't get anywhere with Montreal GM Omar Minaya on obtaining catcher Michael Barrett. So Beane did the work for him, getting Barrett from the Expos and sending him to the Cubs the next day. Last year, Beane and Hendry pulled off a deal that got the Cubs catcher Jason Kendall for the stretch drive.
"Billy Beane, to me, is as good as it gets," Hendry said today. "Really on top of his profession. Blunt honest. Not afraid to trade talent for talent. Not trying to beat anybody up in a deal. If he gets what he wants, he's not afraid to give up good players. Look at his track record. Winning-type organization, not always the highest payrolls."
To many on the outside, Hendry and Beane seem to be an odd couple. After all, Beane is the "Moneyball" GM who relies on stats, and Hendry is the seat-of-the-pants guy who goes by the "tools" a player has. Truth be told, these two guys are a lot more similar than they are different. Beane values his good scouts, and Hendry and his crew study the stats and listen to their scouts.
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.)
And to think we've still got a ways to go before the July 31 trading deadline.