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The Waiting is the Harden Part

That was, without a doubt, one of the best wins of the entire year. I admit, coming into the game last night, I didn't think there was any way the Cards win it. Pineiro vs. Cole Hamels? No way.

I thought the real keys to the game last night was the way that Joel handled the lefties in the Phillies' lineup. He managed to navigate a lineup featuring Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard, and held the Phillies' lefthanded contingent to a single base hit in ten at bats. Any time you can suppress those hitters that effectively, you've got a great chance to win the game. Of course, the double plays didn't hurt any.

Strangely enough, the Phillies, as good as their offense has been this season, have been shut out six times already this year, compared to only four shutouts all of 2007. I have no idea if that means anything one way or the other, but I thought it was an interesting little tidbit.

Obviously, though, the really big story of the day yesterday as far as the Cardinals are concerned didn't happen anywhere near Philadelphia. It happened quite a ways to the west, where the Chicago Cubs were finalising a deal to bring Rich Harden over from the Oakland Athletics.

The gist of the deal is this: the Cubs got Harden and Chad Gaudin, the Athletics received Sean Gallagher and three other minor leaguers.

I find myself with decidedly mixed feelings regarding this deal. I've said all along that I wanted the Cardinals to be patient, not make any rash deals that would compromise the future in any way. I've also spoken at great length about the need to avoid players who have health risks. I'm tired of looking at the Cardinals' disabled list and seeing half of their rotation there.

All of that being said, I still can't help the way I feel this morning. One of my very favourite pitchers in all of baseball got traded to the Cubs, and when I look at the package they gave up, I get the distinct feeling that the Cards could have easily done just as well without hurting themselves. So, I thought I'd take a look at what the Cubs sent out to the East Bay and see what it would have looked like from the Cardinals' end.

First off, Sean Gallagher. The center piece of the package the Cubs gave up, Gallagher is a solid, though not exactly big name, pitching prospect. He's pitched quite well for Chicago this year after being recalled, posting a 4.45 ERA with 58 hits allowed and a 49/22 K/BB ratio in 58.2 innings. He basically profiles as a mid rotation type starter, a #4 guy with a ceiling in the #3 range.

The Cards don't really have an exact comp for Gallagher; very few of their pitching prospects have had success at the ML level yet. Boggs is probably the best match, but Mitchell isn't quite the prospect that Gallagher is just yet. Still, it's close enough to start with. Boggs it is.

The catcher, Donaldson, is an interesting case, because we do have a pretty solid comp for him. Donaldson was just drafted last year, and posted a ridiculous OPS of right around 1.100 in his pro debut. He's in High A ball this year at 22, and struggling a bit, putting up a .634 OPS. Donaldson profiles as an offensive catcher, and we just so happen to have one of those. Bryan Anderson is a significantly better prospect here, being younger and performing at a higher level at Triple A this year. Personally, I think Boggs and Anderson is probably a better package than Gallagher and Donaldson. Just how much better is up for debate, but I think it's pretty clearly stronger.

Matt Murton is an odd duck. He's been pretty mediocre in his career thus far, but many around the game seem to think that with a proper opportunity, he could really bloom. Again, the fact that Murton has done it at the major league level makes him a tough comp in the Cards' system, but Chris Duncan is a pretty decent start. Duncan's health and recent struggles make him a little less attractive than Murton in certain ways, but I think Duncan's ceiling is higher. He has better power and a bit better plate discipline, so I think it's pretty close to a wash.

As for Eric Patterson, we have a formerly highly touted middle infield prospect who has struggled to make contact consistently and hasn't looked to be able to make the necessary adjustments as he's moved up the ladder. We have yet another similar player in Tyler Greene. Greene isn't as valuable as Patterson, as he is playing at a lower level and not doing as well, but it's not a huge stretch.

Okay. That's about the package I see the Cardinals having to put together to match what the Cubs gave up. Boggs and Greene are lesser prospects than their counterparts Gallagher and Patterson. On the other hand, Anderson is significantly better than Donaldson and Duncan has a bit of an edge over Murton, in my ever so humble opinion.

So, Boggs, Duncan, Greene, and Bryan Anderson for Gaudin and Harden. Anybody here care to make that deal? Come to think of it, the Cards probably wouldn't have been quite as interested in Gaudin, so you might be able to take out one of the prospects. Obviously, you couldn't take out Anderson, since he would be the center piece of this hypothetical deal, but you could probably take out either Boggs or Greene.

I'm perfectly aware of all the problems that Harden has had staying healthy. Even so, he is perhaps the single most talented pitcher in the game when he's right. I really don't know if he's worth what it would have taken. According to published reports, Harden's velocity has been significantly down in his last few starts, with his fastball averaging slightly less than 90 mph in his last start, after sitting at roughly 95 mph earlier in the year. He may already be hurt, for all we know. Still, I look at the news this morning, and I can't help but struggle to remain patient. There was a 26 year old dynamo on the market, who was had for a very reasonable price. I want the Cards to hold tight and stay with the plan, but Harden would have looked awfully good in Cardinal red, and he has a team option for next season, making his contract situation a positive as well.

What do you guys think? Would that package have been worth it? Or do we not need another health risk in the rotation?

I have to say, patience is all well and good in theory, but actually practicing it is hard. I guess that's why I'm not paid to make these sorts of decisions.

Later, everybody.