Actually, I'd have probably cashed-out after the nine-K game in Japan. But if for some reason I didn't trade him then, I'd have definitely dealt him on Tuesday.
That's not to say he's going to fail in Chicago. It's just that right now, people have him confused with CC Sabathia.
Here's an important fact that should help separate those two: Harden has pitched 277.1 innings over the past three and a half seasons; Sabathia pitched 241.0 last year. He's on a similar pace in 2008, too.
The Angels were aware that Rich Harden's velocity was down Tuesday night, an outing in which Harden said he felt he had "kind of a dead arm" -- both something he's experienced before and something not unusual among starters this time of year.
Several Angels hitters said Wednesday that they thought Harden was hurt, but Harden said after his start that he was fine physically. His fastball registered 4 to 5 mph lower than usual for much of the night. On Wednesday, Harden reiterated that he felt fine.
So he feels fine, despite the dead-ish arm. Great. The Cubs should maybe freeze him, store him in a big steel tank, then revive him in late-September when they absolutely need him to be healthy.
According to Fangraphs (very useful, often linked), Harden has, in fact, lost a couple miles-per-hour on his average fastball since 2005 (from 94.4 to 92.6). He's still having a stellar year, of course. He's struck out eight or more hitters in seven of 13 starts, his ERA is 2.34, and his WHIP is 1.14.Harden is clearly an exciting, set-the-playoff-rotation add for the Cubs. Every piece they gave up in the deal was expendable. They all graded similarly as prospects entering the year (Sickels gave Bs to Gallagher, Patterson and Donaldson), and Chicago still has pitching depth. So really it's a modest-risk/high-reward trade. The Cubs certainly didn't give up a player as interesting as Matt LaPorta.
Of course, they didn't get a pitcher as reliable as Sabathia. And this gets us back to the original point: there's a lot of enthusiasm for Harden right now, and there's a very good chance that it's spilled over to your fantasy league. All the health-related reservations you had about Harden back in February still exist today. This is a fantastic time to sell.
Here are the players that Harden has been traded for in the five most recent one-for-one deals in Yahoo! leagues: Aramis Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cabrera, and Pat Burrell.
I'm not cherry-picking, either. Those are the names. And that's why you need to shop Harden...yesterday. Funston is with me on this:
You might also want to dangle Harden for an exorbitant price tag -- it's worth seeing if the buzz factor has artificially inflated his value in your league.
There's a very good chance that it has. So by all means, dangle.
- Rich Harden