A's righty Rich Harden is quickly becoming one of the more coveted arms in baseball. His 4-0 record and sparkling 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings have led many to speculate that he could be moved to a contender if General Manager Billy Beane gets the right offer.
ESPN commentator Peter Gammons is already touting Harden as the most dominant pitcher in the AL right now.
While Beane is sure to demand a king's ransom in line with the Dan Haren and Mark Mulder deals, the abundance of injured and underperforming starters around the majors makes for many intriguing trade partners. While teams will no doubt be reluctant to part with the type of high-end prospects it would take to pry Harden from the A's, the winds of desperation are beginning to swirl for several teams struggling to stay in contention.
Omar Minaya's desperation could lead him to try to add another legitimate top of the rotation arm. The Yankees, faced with the emergence of the Rays and the recent freak injury to Chien-Ming Wang, might be willing to take a gamble on Harden's overpowering fastball, even with the injury concerns. The Tigers are a major disappointment to this point. With the loss of Jeremy Bonderman and the disaster that is Dontrelle Willis, General Manager Dave Dombrowski has to be feeling the pressure. Depending on the results of Brad Penny's MRI, the Dodgers could also be in the market for a quality starter.
All trade talks involving Harden are tempered by the fact that Oakland currently sits only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. If Oakland can hang close to the Angels, Beane could very well decide to stand pat and make a run at the division. However, should the A's falter, look for a heating up of talks to deal Harden, starter Joe Blanton, shortstop Bobby Crosby, and second baseman Mark Ellis.