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Rich Harden is still very young – just 27 – and when healthy, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. That sounds . . . familiar. It also sounds like a recipe for a very risky long-term signing after the season, should the Cubs choose to pursue it.

General manager Jim Hendry seems interested in the idea but plans to see how well Harden holds up down the stretch and what kind of contract he commands before making that decision — along with what kind of ”ground rules” might come this winter with new ownership.

”I don’t worry about that until the end of the year with free agents,” said Hendry, who figures to have a fairly specific idea from the new ownership of his parameters early in the offseason, even with final bankruptcy-court and MLB approval of the team sale not expected until sometime in November.

”Rich has done a great job for us. If he’s healthy, he’s proven he’s an upper-echelon guy.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

The prevailing wisdom all year has been that Rich Harden would not return next season. If he’s healthy, he’ll get a multi-year deal that a team like the Cubs – one with huge, huge commitments already next year, as well as a healthy group of young pitchers that could become ML starters – might not want to match.

Of course, new ownership might be willing to dramatically increase payroll next year – which it would have to do to keep Harden and also address the middle infield issues the Cubs have.

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