What the Cubs Gave Up

Murton was involved in six-player swap

In recent years, the Chicago Cubs have not been in the business of trading away very many pieces of their farm system. That changed a bit on Tuesday when Chicago sent four players – at least two of which are bona-fide prospects – to the Oakland Athletics in a blockbuster trade for established big league pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin.

The addition of Harden, when healthy, alongside Carlos Zambrano gives the Cubs a solid one-two punch in their rotation. Gaudin, for his part, looks to provide some much-needed relief to a bullpen that has been inconsistent at times this season.

But who did the Cubs give up?

In acquiring Harden and Gaudin, Chicago traded to Oakland pitcher Sean Gallagher, INF-OF Eric Patterson, OF Matt Murton and low-level minor league catcher Josh Donaldson. All but Donaldson had seen big league service time with Chicago.

From the A's perspective, the centerpiece in this deal is Gallagher. The right-hander made his big league debut in 2007 and began to show some signs of developing into a solid major league starter this season. In 10 starts with Chicago, Gallagher was 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 54-plus innings.

Part of the reason for Gallagher's success is simple hard work. From the end of last year until spring training 2008, Gallagher got himself into top-notch physical shape, shedding 35 pounds over the course of the off-season. That has quickened up his delivery to the plate and allowed him to pitch with less exertion, Gallagher said.

"I don't need as much exertion anymore just to try and get over my front half," he said. "My mechanics are a little easier to stay with instead of falling out of so easily."

Until recently, Patterson was more known in some circles as the player who showed up late to a game last September and was sent to Double-A as punishment.

But Patterson showed up to spring training a week early this past February to bury the hatchet with manager Lou Piniella, general manager Jim Hendry, and the rest of the Cubs' brain trust. Soon afterward, he proceeded to return to his normal hot hitting at Class AAA Iowa, and was recalled on three different occasions by Chicago – seemingly performing better upon each promotion – where hit .237 in 13 games.

Patterson will give the A's speed, but also some strength. He has a big swing and occasional home run pop, and he recently morphed into more of a closed stance at the plate. His defense has been suspect in the outfield and second base – his natural position – but he will bring plenty of excitement to the A's roster.

Conversely, the least exciting piece of the deal from the A's standpoint is probably Murton. Despite a solid rookie campaign in 2006, the right-handed batting outfielder has regressed the last two seasons and this year saw only limited playing time with Chicago, batting .250 (10-for-40) in 19 big league games.

With Alfonso Soriano set to return from the disabled list sooner than later, Murton likely would have gone back down to Iowa had he stayed with the Cubs.

Rounding out the deal is Donaldson, a first-round supplemental draft pick in 2007 that had the best all-around season of any player that made his pro debut with the Cubs last season. An advanced hitter against his competition in short-season Low A-ball a year ago, Donaldson's bat took a nosedive this year at Single-A Peoria.

He worked in the Instructional League to cut down his stride, but the changes were not overly visible as he batted only .217 in 63 games in a sophomore slump. His defense – particularly his throwing arm – is average to above-average.

Despite his pour numbers with the bat this season, Donaldson should become a top catching prospect in the A's system instantly, and he was considered by many as the Cubs' top catching prospect at the low levels of the system entering the year.

"These players are like family to us and no one ever wants to see them traded away," said Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita. "It's like your children leaving home. Hopefully both the Cubs and these players will benefit."

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