Harden Claimed

With the Cardinals up nine games and just a little over month to left to play, the Cubs are punting. Per reports, Rich Harden was put on waivers and claimed by a contending team. That team is rumored to be the Minnesota Twins.

Believe it or not, there’s still some hope for the Twins. Coolstandings.com gives them a 14% probability of making the playoffs; PECOTA gives them 15%. The Tigers haven’t run away with things yet, and the Twins are scheduled to play the White Sox six more times and Detroit seven times this season. Their September schedule also includes some feeble opponents – six games apiece with inter-division rivals Cleveland and Kansas City, as well as four games on the road against Toronto and a three game home stand with Oakland. So yeah, it’s feasible they could make up some ground and pull this thing out, with some luck.

With an uninspiring rotation of Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and essentially a couple of replacement players, the Twinkies are also believed to be in on the Brad Penny derby. Harden clearly is the better option than Penny, but the more expensive one — he’s going to be a Type A free agent. Optimistically the Twins could squeeze six, maybe seven more starts out of Harden. Harden has been pitching as well as anyone in the second half with a 1.80 ERA and a 3.30 FIP. His ZiPS projects a 3.56 FIP for the rest of the season. If they can get that sort of performance out of seven starts, that would be good for about an extra win over replacement.

Harden is owed about $1.4 M left in salary, but should be worth anywhere between $3.2-4.4M in performance, and then there’s the matter of the two high draft picks. All this means Harden should fetch a very good return, potentially two solid B prospects.

For the Twins, it’s a worthy gamble. October baseball remains in the realm of possible, and Harden would certainly help their chances. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, the Twins can make it up in next year’s draft if they don’t/can’t bring Harden back. Picks aren’t as valuable as top prospects in the same way the proverbial bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush, but Minnesota has had a decent enough success rate when it comes to drafting first rounders. As long as the Cubs aren’t asking for Aaron Hicks or some crazy multi-player package, I think I’d pull the trigger if I were the Twins’ GM. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Harden between now and Monday.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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I don’t know if I’d call the Indians “feeble”. They’ve went 21-13 in their last 34 games and took both of their series against the Twins during that stretch.