Not surprisingly, the rumor mill has begun churning trade possibilities in a big way, as Jim Hendry is looking to retaliate to the Milwaukee trade of C.C. Sabathia.
At the top of this list of rumors is Rich Harden and A.J. Burnett. To go along with the pattern of Names-By-Initials (C.C., A.J.), Rich Harden shall now be known as J.R., short for his full name of James Richard.
J.R. Harden would be a very interesting candidate. He's 26, he has a career ERA of 3.42 (including 2.34 so far this year), and his career record is an impressive 36-19. Oh, and he's playing for the A's, who are very much in the thick of a playoff race, plus he's a slightly healthier Mark Prior. If Hendry is able to pull Harden away from the A's, it's going to cost the Cubs some prospects -probably Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton for starters, and there'd likely be a handful of others included as well.
If J.R. Harden compares less-than-favorably with Mark Prior, then A.J. Burnett is a similar guy to Kerry Wood. He's an overpowering strikeout pitcher who wears the number 34, he's had arm problems in the past, and, oh, he's never won 15 or more games in his career. He's also having a less-than-stellar season, even though he's pitching in the meanest division in baseball. Burnett is 8-8 with a 4.92 ERA. The Jays are reportedly looking for a few young prospects, including a shortstop. I'm not sure what the general value of Ronny Cedeno is at this stage, but I'd assume he'd be locked into any trade package offered for Burnett.
I'm betting that, within a week of the All Star Game, the Cubs will have made an impact trade. If Harden is healthy, he's the clear first choice, even though the Cubs would probably have to give up too much for him. But in a year in which the Cubs are very likely to reach the playoffs, they could and should do everything possible to improve their chances of winning once they get there. No prospect should be off the table.