Top Three Billy Beane Trades: No. 1 Rich Harden To Cubs

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: Rich Harden
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: Rich Harden /

Billy Beane has been the face of the Front Office in Oakland since 1998. With the trade deadline approaching us this month, we’ll examine Beane’s Top Three (Best) trades over his career. Coming in at number one is the deal that sent Rich Harden to the Cubs in exchange for Josh Donaldson.

Billy Beane’s decision to trade Rich Harden during the 2008 season was a bit of a surprise, considering where the A’s were in the standings. At the time of the deal, the A’s were chasing the Angels and in the running for the wild card.

Despite his team’s place in the standings, though, Beane decided to flip Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for a package that included Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton and Josh Donaldson. 

The Cubs were intent on competing for a title and landed Harden with a deal that the A’s felt was more than fair. Harden was an ace in ’08 and went 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA before being dealt to Chicago. Gaudin was not too shabby, either, but was part of the deal as a form of insurance for the Cubs.

Harden’s lengthy injury history was a cause for concern. The A’s dealt him, looking back today, at precisely the right moment. Harden went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts with the Cubs following the trade and helped the team capture a playoff spot.

In 2009, however, Harden’s numbers would take a significant dip. He wound up going 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts with Chicago.

Swing and Miss (then Hit)

Oakland, meanwhile, missed on three of the four players they received from Chicago. At the time of the deal, the A’s looked like they may have missed an opportunity with Harden’s value. Looking at the Dan Haren and Nick Swisher trades, the Harden deal looked much less appealing.

Gallagher would go 3-5 with a 6.34 ERA over 13 career starts with the A’s. Murton and Patterson, meanwhile, failed to have any significant contributions to the franchise.

So why does this trade rank as Beane’s biggest haul? Josh Donaldson, that’s why.

Donaldson came out of nowhere. No one expected Donaldson to amount to anything, but the A’s scouting department scored big time with the one-time catching prospect.

From Prospect to All-Star

After the Eric Chavez era came to an end, the A’s were in desperate need of a third baseman. They would tinker with Kevin Kouzmanoff and Scott Sizemore, but neither provided the production the A’s were seeking.

Donaldson helped the A’s during their magical 2012 run and chipped in 9 HR and 33 RBI in the process. He also had a huge double in Game 4 of the ALDS against Detroit during Oakland’s thrilling walk-off win.

Donaldson officially broke out in 2013, hitting .301 with 24 HR and 93 RBI. He posted a 8.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that season and helped guide the A’s to another division title.

He followed up with 29 HR and 98 RBI in 2014 and helped the A’s reach the Wild Card round. He posted a 7.4 WAR in 2014 and established himself as a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.

In four seasons with the A’s, Donaldson hit .268/.347/.458 with 149 HR and 472 RBI. Despite striking out with Gallagher, Murton and Patterson, Beane struck gold with Donaldson.

Beane’s Top Three Trades…

  1. A’s send Rich Harden to Chicago Cubs for Josh Donaldson
  2. A’s send Mark Mulder to St. Louis Cardinals for Dan Haren
  3. A’s send Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney to Boston for Josh Reddick