Anytime that Billy Beane has made a trade over the past couple of years, it becomes just a matter of time until the players that Oakland acquires become integral parts to the A's. Today the Chicago Cubs traded RHP Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, OF Eric Patterson and C Josh Donaldson to the A's for RHP Rich Harden and RHP Chad Gaudin. The time that it takes for Gallagher, Murton and Patterson to have an impact on the A's will be immediate. Each of those three players have been stuck behind the bloated contracts that the Cubs starting 9 plus rotation boasts. None of these players strike me as future superstars, though Gallagher may peak out as a #2 starter, and both Murton and Patterson possess varying abilities. Murton is a gap hitter and an OBP guy that may top out as a Raul Ibanez type, getting a late start and potentially becoming a solid RBI guy down the road. Patterson is the younger sibling of Reds outfielder Corey Patterson and exhibits many of the same traits as his brother. In 203 Minor League AB's, the younger Patterson has worked 12 walks and has an OBP 38 points higher than his batting average. Eric Patterson does possess some great speed and may become a dynamic leadoff hitter at some point if he can learn from the A's way of working walks.
The final player that the A's recieved was catcher Josh Donaldson. I had the pleasure to watch Donaldson with the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2006 and I was very impressed with what Donaldson can do. His upper body is incredibly strong and he can really muscle up and go to all fields. His upper body stance compares to that of Manny Ramirez and best of all, he is a catcher. Donaldson will work counts and hit for power. He has struggled this season hitting .217 in high-A ball, but I still think he has a good chance at being a solid Major League catcher at some point down the line. If catching doesn't work out, he has the arm and athleticism to play a corner position. He may be the second best player acquired in this trade after Gallagher.
The Cubs did give up a good package to the A's in return for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. When I first saw this trade, I actually thought that the Cubs got the best end of this deal as Gaudin and Harden are two legitimate starting pitchers at the Major League level, but I do think it may be more realistic because of Harden's injury history. Harden, when healthy, is one of the best pitchers in baseball. The only problem is that he has had only one healthy season, in 2004. The Cubs may have acquired a younger Kerry Wood for their rotation for the end of the season, but if he can give them 10-12 starts down the stretch, that could mean 10 wins. He will be just that good in the NL. I was very surprised to see Gaudin was added to this trade since Gaudin is becoming a solid major league starter in his own right and he may not even make the Cubs rotation. He will at least be great insurance for Harden or any other injured Cub starters.
I see this being a very good trade for both sides. The A's pick up 3 players that did not have a future with the Cubs and a solid prospect while the Cubs counteract the CC Sabathia trade with a big move of their own. They even have an insurance policy for the centerpiece of the trade. Billy Beane could have gotten a little more I think for Harden, but this trade will help keep the A's competitive this season. Murton will take over in left-field in place of Emil Brown immediately and most likely become Beane's new Scott Hatteberg.