Is Rich Harden worth the risk?

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The Tribune’s Paul Sullivan notes the dilemma the Cubs face this offseason in connection with Rich Harden:

Harden has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter in the second half with a 3-1 record and 1.64 earned-run average, with a 4-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. But he could become a sought-after free agent after the season, so the Cubs have to make a decision on how much they’re willing to offer him . . . Signing Harden to a four-year deal for $50 million-$60 million is risky, but that’s probably what they will have to pay to keep him.

The “risky” part is the rub, of course.  When Harden is healthy, he is very very good, but he’s only started 30 games and/or thrown 150+ innings once, and that was in 2004.  In terms of health and effectiveness when healthy there’s an argument to be made that he’s the pitching equivalent of Milton Bradley, and look how well that risk worked out for the Cubs.

Of course, good pitching is a bit harder to find than DH/corner outfielder types, so there’s a chance that Jim Hendry and the Cubs’ new ownership group may be willing to take another Bradleyesque risk.  I’m not sure I would.

Yankees, Mariners expressing interest in J.A. Happ

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Yankees and Mariners are both expressing interest in Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Happ is posting a 3.48 ERA and a 94/25 K/BB ratio in 82.2 innings across 14 starts and has been stingy with the hits as well. Between that, the Blue Jays’ lack of contention and the fact that Happ is in the walk year of his three-year, $36 million deal, all signs point to the Jays trading them.

In normal circumstances you might not expect the Jays to make a trade with the Yankees, but at this point it sort of doesn’t matter, does it? It’s not like Happ in New York on a couple month rental will impact the 2018 Jays too much. And, given his pending free agency, it’s not extraordinarily likely that he’d haunt the Jays from the Bronx long term either.

There’s not a ton of elite pitching currently available, but as the trade deadline approaches — a little over a month to go on that score — the talk about Happ, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano and others will heat up. Figure the Yankees will be linked with any and all available starters.