Could Harden Have Been A Phillie?

The Cubs and Brewers traded jabs at each other with deals for stud pitching. It's likely the same sort of trade race will take place in the NL East and it would have been nice for the Phillies to fire the first shot by adding Rich Harden to the mix, but would they have had the pieces and the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger?

The Phillies, like a lot of clubs, need pitching and found themselves to be a spectator as two key pitchers were taken off the market by the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. There are still some names out there - Erik Bedard, Randy Wolf and some others - so the shelves aren't completely picked clean at this point, but the two highest valued pitchers are gone. While C.C. Sabathia and Rich Harden represented the most sought after, did they represent pitchers that the Phillies would have had enough in the prospect bank to go after? And, would the Phillies have seriously considered the price that the Indians and A's demanded for each of these studs?

For whatever reason, the Phillies never truly looked interested in Sabathia. While various teams lined up to pursue him, the Phillies weren't one of them, perhaps because they saw the price tag as too high or perhaps, because the Phillies are much more on the cautious - maybe patient is the right word - side of the trade market. The history of the Phillies is generally to sniff around a player for a long time before they truly show interest and start to ask about the price tag. For instance, the Phillies were interested in Jamie Moyer for a few seasons, but never really put together an offer to try to get him to Philadelphia before he signed with them as a free agent in October of 2006. They had inquired about Brad Lidge for some time and only made their move this past off-season. Yes, their way of buying is at a much slower pace than many other teams take, particularly at this time of the year.

Now Rich Harden is another matter. The Phillies had scouted him on a fairly regular basis and they were often linked to rumors of where Harden might wind up when the A's would pull the trigger on a deal to send him out of the Bay Area. It's believed that the Phillies hadn't made an offer to Oakland, possibly because they anticipated the market wouldn't open quite as early as it did and possibly because they were again cautious; I'm sorry, patient. It should be noted too, that the A's put Chad Gaudin into the deal, primarily to fit what the Cubs were looking for. Chicago GM Jim Hendry was balking ever so slightly at a deal because he was concerned about losing pitching depth by putting young Sean Gallagher in the deal. Oakland GM Billy Beane came up with the idea of including Gaudin, which made the deal much more doable for the Cubs and the two were able to rework some of the players involved and get the deal done. Ironically, the Phillies might have had the same issue of depth in dealing with Oakland, so it's possible that Beane's solution would have been needed in a deal between the Phillies and A's.

In Sean Gallagher, the Cubs gave up a good young right-hander who the A's saw as the center piece of the deal. Gallagher had reached the majors last season with the Cubs and was starting to develop nicely in their rotation this season. After starting the season at Triple-A Iowa, Gallagher was recalled on May 4 and made his first start for the Cubs a week later. In ten starts, Gallagher was 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA, but for the month of June, Gallagher had a 4.23 ERA and was pitching much better. He came into the season ranked as the Cubs fifth best prospect according to Baseball America. To replace Gallagher, the Phillies would have had to counter with either Kyle Kendrick or J.A. Happ. Giving up Kendrick would have been tough because he's not the guy in the rotation that the Phillies would have been looking to replace by acquiring Harden. In other words, the Phillies would have still had to keep someone - Adam Eaton - in the rotation that they didn't want there. Happ has a great future and it's possible that the A's would have preferred him over Kendrick, unless they were looking for someone with a bit more of a track record in the majors. With the higher upside though, it's likely that the Phillies would have had to give up Happ to play the role of Sean Gallagher in a deal for Harden.

Figuring who replaces Matt Murton in the deal is tough. He's got a lot of talent, but has had a bad season for the Cubs and some believe that his potential was over-hyped and that he's not going to be anything more than a fourth outfielder type. It's going to be interesting to see if the A's can work with him at the plate to help turn him back into the player that came into the season as a .296 Major League hitter rather than the one that was hitting just .250 with the Cubs this year. While the Phillies don't have a player who exactly fits Murton's mold, there are a couple of different ways to look at this spot in the deal. One is to find a guy with Major League potential, but just hasn't put it all together. Possibly, a guy like Brandon Watson, who hit .278 for the Nationals last season, albeit in just 18 at bats, but seems to have Major League potential if he were to get into a position where he could play on a regular basis. Earlier in the season, Watson's manager, Dave Huppert, told Philly Baseball News that Watson is near ready to play in the majors. "All he really needs is a chance. Somewhere where he can be put into the lineup and just play without having to worry about being replaced the first time that he goes 0-for-4," said Huppert of Watson's potential. T.J. Bohn has been up and down a couple times this season, but hasn't shown much at the plate, even at Triple-A where he's hitting just .195 for the IronPigs. On the upside, he came into the season as a .278 career hitter in the minors and some believe him to have the potential to be a decent fourth outfielder at the Major League level. It's very likely though that Oakland would have been asking about Shane Victorino at some point in this deal and this is possibly where his name would have come up. The Phillies don't necessarily like the idea of dealing Victorino, but would give him up in the right deal, for the right player. It's very possible that this would have been the right deal and the Phillies would have considered putting him into the package to get Harden in Philly.

Like Gallagher, Eric Patterson spent some time with the Cubs last season and was in his third stint with them this season when he was dealt to Oakland. The 25 year old has played both second base and the outfield for the Cubs, but had been primarily used in left field to replace the injured Alfonso Soriano and was hitting .237 with the Cubbies. Patterson, who has a lot of talent, seemed to be somewhat rededicated to performing this season after a major miscue last season that saw him get demoted from the majors all the way down to Double-A after he showed up late for a game. At Iowa, Patterson - the younger brother of the Reds Corey Patterson - was hitting .320 with 6 home runs in 52 games and had stolen 11 bases. His defense is weak, but he's an exciting player that seems to be blossoming and will get much better with consistent playing time. He promises speed and a little bit of power, but it's likely that the A's will look to cut down his big swing to emphasize just getting on base and using his speed to provide some spark to their lineup. So, who would the Phillies have to put in place of Patterson? It depends on just what the A's were looking for here. Were they looking for a speedy, get-on-base type player or were they looking to find a young second base prospect? If they were interested in speed, Oakland would have likely asked for either Greg Golson or possibly, Javon Moran. If second base is an issue, then the name Brad Harman would have had to come up, even though he's not Major League ready, like Patterson appears to be. It's likely that the A's were looking more for a potential speed guy with a little power, since Patterson's defense doesn't make him a standout at any position. With the Phillies seemingly overpaying at the Murton spot of the deal, perhaps Oakland would have taken a flyer on Watson, since his get-on-base approach to the game fits Oakland's mold for young players and he doesn't hold the value to the Phillies (or to other clubs for that matter) that Golson or Moran would.

Finally, the Cubs had to put a young catcher, Josh Donaldson, into the equation. The Phillies have a good supply of catchers in the minors and Oakland could have played this a few different ways. While Donaldson is known primarily as an offensive-oriented catcher, his equivalent in the Phillies organization would likely be Travis D'Arnaud, who is hitting .352 at Williamsport through the early going of the season. Yes, the A's could ask for Jason Jaramillo or Lou Marson, but the Phillies would have been very slow to include Marson and would have likely looked to pull Victorino out of the package if they asked for Jaramillo. If Oakland wanted to cut down the deal a little and make it something like Happ, Jaramillo and Watson for Harden, the Phillies would have been interested, but in a scenario like that, Oakland would have likely held out for Golson rather than accepting Watson and wouldn't have included Gaudin. It's very likely that the A's would have been happy to take D'Arnaud and just stash him in the lower levels of the minors and let him develop as they did with Donaldson. When you think about it though, the Phillies might have been okay with putting Jaramillo into the mix, because they can get by with Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste behind the plate for another season until Marson would be in Philly for 2010. Plus, it's possible that Marson will be ready before then, although the plan right now isn't to push Marson.

That would put the deal at Happ, Victorino, Watson and D'Arnaud for Harden and Gaudin, but of course, there's always wiggle room.

Would the Phillies really need Gaudin? Gaudin can be a decent swingman for a club, working either in relief or in the rotation. The Phillies wouldn't want to put him into the rotation, because he's not decidedly better than what they've already got there, but he could provide some insurance in case someone went down with an injury. If Oakland insisted on Kendrick, then Gaudin would have to be part of the deal, but if Happ's included, he wouldn't be a necessity from where the Phillies stand. You can never tell exactly how another organization values a player, either. Perhaps, Oakland would have their heart set on Golson or maybe even Harman or one of the other infield prospects like Jason Donald or Adrian Cardenas. We didn't bring up the name of Carlos Carrasco, but maybe the A's would have wanted to base the package on him, although with his recent injury concerns, that's not likely. Maybe Marson would have been the prize for Oakland. After all, there's not an organization around that doesn't keep an eye out for young catchers if one of them happens to potentially come their way. Predicting how this deal would have been done if it were the Phillies rather than the Cubs on the other end is not an exact science, but it is fun, and intriguing. It's also a mute point since Harden has already been fitted for blue pinstripes and is growing to love the look of ivy.



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