Rich Harden was pretty freaking brilliant today. Blanton was good yesterday, albeit not Harden good, but he doesn't have Harden's stuff.
Now I'm well aware of small sample sizes and the fact that Harden started four games last year, so he hasn't proven anything yet. So I putting the proverbial cart ahead of the horse here, but hear me out for a second. If you combine the fact that Blanton and Harden are a pretty damn good 1-2 punch with the Angels news today that Kelvim Escobar is fearing for his career, there is a scenario where it's possible that the A's could hang in the AL West race this year rather than be the poor "rebuilding" team that most of the experts seem to expect (and want - if I had to hear Hanrahan and Dale Barton one more time I was going to mail a cluephone to Gary Thorne and ESPN). That would create quite a dilemma for Billy Beane simply because the A's are a better team with Blanton and Harden healthy and starting.
So what do you do? Obviously if Harden is healthy and pitching the way he is, he's going to be worth a truckload of high quality, high end prospects. Seriously, Harden, at his best, should bring an enormous return. But Harden is also only 26 years old and has the potential to be the kind of ace that every team desires. He's the kind of guy that the A's could build one of the best staffs in baseball around. At the same time, if the intention this year is to build towards something better in the future, trading a healthy Harden could make the team minor league depth unparalleled in all of baseball.
I don't know about you, but I want the team to compete if it can. Beane made some smart trades when he dealt away Haren and Swisher. He essentially got back some players who are going to be filling in a few holes on the team in 2008, but also got a ton of talent who project further away. If Harden excels and has a Cy Young like start, then the team is essentially forfeiting all chances at challenging in 2008 by dealing him away.
Those are a lot of assumptions. The biggest one being that Harden makes it past his next couple of starts without his arm falling off. But making that hypothetical leap of faith, what do you think Beane should do if the A's are hanging close to the front of the AL West come the trading deadline and Harden is healthy and pitching well, meaning his trade value might be ridiculously high?