Brewers react to Cubs getting Harden
Front office knows that winning NL Central will be a battle
MILWAUKEE -- It certainly did not take long for the Cubs to respond to the Brewers' big move.Chicago answered Milwaukee's trade for CC Sabathia before Sabathia stepped on the mound for his Brewers debut on Tuesday night, acquiring right-handed starter Rich Harden in a six-player deal that signaled the Cubs are just as intent on winning the National League Central. "It's good. We're competing," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We're competing not only on the field, but in the front office." Questions about the Cubs are about as welcome in the Brewers clubhouse as stale beer, but Tuesday's counterpunch certainly raised some eyebrows. Even if Brewers manager Ned Yost didn't want to admit it after the Brewers beat the Rockies behind Sabathia.
"I really worry about the Colorado Rockies right now," Yost said. "I don't care about the Cubs right now, just to be really honest about it."Does it make it fun? Sure, it makes it fun. It's great for everybody. We make a move, they make a move, St. Louis is [looking] to make moves. This is fun for not only the players, but for the baseball fans too. Does that affect us today? No, it doesn't. It makes this game very, very interesting. It makes this division interesting." The Cubs and Brewers finished first and second in the NL Central last season and this year the Cardinals have added themselves to the mix. All three teams won on Tuesday, so the third-place Brewers are one-half game behind the Cardinals and four games behind the Cubs. "We aren't even to the All-Star break yet," said Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, who caught Harden for two years in Oakland and then finished last season with the Cubs. "We can't worry about anything else." Was the timing even mildly interesting? "I try not to pay attention," Kendall said. "But, if you talk to some baseball people, yeah, it is. Rich Harden is a darn good pitcher. A really, really good pitcher. That's a good move for them, but like I said, we can't worry about it." Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, a Los Angeles native, could appreciate the theatrics.
"I think they were looking to improve their team, regardless," said Braun, who was voted to start the All-Star Game alongside Cubs outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. "As soon as they saw us get CC, they put the pedal to the metal and made sure they got something."Obviously, this improves their team. It's going to be a real fun race." News that the Cubs had acquired Harden reached Brewers officials in the home dugout at Miller Park minutes after players retreated to the clubhouse after batting practice. Melvin, his son, Cory, and pro scouting coordinator Zack Minasian tried to guess who Chicago would have sent to Oakland and got three of the names right: right-hander Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton and catching prospect Josh Donaldson. Later, Melvin & Co. learned that the Cubs also sent infielder Eric Patterson to the A's for Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin. "I'm going to top this again tomorrow!" Melvin joked. Don't hold your breath. The Brewers will be hard-pressed to make another splashy deal after acquiring Sabathia, whose $5 million salary over the remainder of the regular season pushed the Brewers payroll to about $90 million, a record for Major League Baseball's smallest media market. Melvin and his staff celebrated Sabathia's arrival on Monday, but did meet on Tuesday to continue their evaluations of the roster. Instead of looking at some of the big names still on the market they discussed issues of depth, and whether the Brewers have enough of it. "We don't really have anywhere to add without taking players off," Melvin said. "The most important thing you have to do now is look at your ballclub and ask, if any player had an injury that kept them out for a long time, how would you replace them? You always do that, but as the season goes on, you do it more and more." In a speech to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, on one hand, said the Brewers will keep their eyes on the trade market. On the other hand, he hinted that he is satisfied with the team as it is. "It's not like Doug is packing up the tent and is just going to watch baseball for the rest of the summer," Attanasio said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's looking at other things we can do. "You can always use extra pitching; I'm sure he's looking at the bullpen. You could use another left-handed bat. One of the challenges: You got 25 roster spots and then you'd have to move somebody out. Right now, those 25 spots are filled with pretty good guys."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.