I've poured through all the analysis I could find about the Harden deals, and I still don't like it emotionally. But there's a major point that I haven't seen being made on the rational side of the ledger, so I'll make it here. I'll begin with a quote from the San Jose Mercury News:
Asked if dealing Harden might lead to more trades involving players such as Joe Blanton or Huston Street, Beane responded: " 'No' is probably the quickest answer." But he added: "I think you have to look at (possible deals) independently."
That's a load of bull. Beane may make his deals one at a time, but that doesn't mean he looks at his deals in isolation. He looks at them as to how it affects the team as a whole, and what kind of flexibility it gives him in the future. Which brings us to the missing point: the A's are saving quite a bit of money in this trade over the next year and a half:
2008 (remaining) Harden: $2.25 million Gaudin: $0.87 million Total: $3.00 million
2009 (estimated) Harden: $7.00 million Gaudin: $2.50 million Total: $9.50 million
Combined: $12.50 million
Gallagher and Murton and Patterson will make about $1 million or so between them, which makes about $11 million or so that can be spent on something besides an extremely injury-prone starter and a mop-up man in the pen. Perhaps $4 million of it has already been spent on Michael Inoa--a younger, hopefully healther Rich Harden for the future. And perhaps the rest of that money can be spent on extending Mark Ellis or Justin Duchscherer. Perhaps you and I wouldn't trade Harden and Gaudin for Gallagher, Patterson, Murton and Donaldson. But if you think of the deal as including Inoa plus an extra year or two of Mark Ellis, the trade looks a lot better, doesn't it?
If you figure the A's are unlikely to make the playoffs in 2008, and you want to load up for 2009, who would you rather have: Harden and Gaudin, or Gallagher and Ellis?