Uncertainty surrounding his position with the A's while trade talks circled the clubhouse turned into certainty Tuesday, when the club dealt him to the Cubs along with fellow pitcher Chad Gaudin in a six-player deal.
Now, uncertainty remains when asking who Billy Beane's next trade victim might be. The reaction of A's players to the latest blockbuster deal involving their teammates made one thing certain -- don't count them out of the postseason mix just yet.
"We're still trying to make the playoffs," second baseman Mark Ellis said. "We had a good team before this, and I still think we have a good team.
"We feel like we're going to be all right."
On the other side of the deal, Cubs players displayed a more-than-all right feeling when thinking about what an ace starter does to their already deep staff, which sits atop the National League Central.
"[The front office] wants to go for a World Series, not only for the playoffs," Chicago third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "We've got a good enough team to make the playoffs, but with a guy like [Harden], that's going to get you to the postseason."
For the A's, losing yet another ace pitcher -- one who was named the heir apparent to the Big Three -- as well as Gaudin, who has the ability to be used in just about any role, is nothing new to a team that has seen big-name faces come and go often.
"We've made some great deals in the last 12 months," manager Bob Geren said, "and this is another one."
Another one, yes -- no surprise there, said several Oakland players Tuesday. But will it be the only one before the July 31 trade deadline? Along with Harden, Joe Blanton and Huston Street had been in the middle of A's trade gossip. After hearing of Tuesday's moves, neither pitcher seemed the least bit shaken.
"I'm still taking the same approach as I always do," Blanton said. "My name's been out there longer than Rich's, and he got moved before I did, so I'll keep worrying about pitching for the Oakland A's."
Said Street: "I can't worry about being the next one. Those are decisions above me, and I wish I could control them, but I can't."
Shipping out a guy who arguably represented the team's most talented pitcher, though, has the potential to make others wonder about the club's direction -- or at least most would assume.
"It's a fair question," Ellis said, "but we can't think like that as players. I don't think it sends a message.
"It is what it is. They traded Rich, and it's something they felt like they had to do. As players, you can't worry about it."
During his seven years with the A's, Ellis has seen the likes of Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Dan Haren and Nick Swisher land a one-way ticket out of Oakland. However, none of those moves came smack dab in the middle of the summer grind.
"Around this time of the year," said Ellis, "we're usually acquiring guys, not losing them."
As Harden expressed just minutes after learning of the trade, it makes for a bit of a shock effect. Being handed a new uniform is only part of the equation -- much of it involves leaving behind guys who were teammates, friends and family members all in one.
"It's sad to see those two guys go," Ellis said. "To spend as much time as we do with them and build relationships, it's something that is really tough."
An upbeat Geren, who spent much of his pregame media session discussing the advantages of the trade in a very Geren-like glass-half-full mode, echoed his second baseman's words.
"Any time you have guys leave who were part of the team and part of the family, it's hard," the skipper said. "But that's the way baseball is these days -- it really is."
Unlike Ellis and every other member of the A's roster, Geren did have a say -- a small one, yes, but a say, nonetheless -- in the six-player deal.
"Every trade has reasons why it's made, and it's not really my decision why they're made," he said. "But I knew about the trade, I was consulted about it, and I'm very happy about it.
"It's gonna be another one of these trades where both teams are happy with it."
Immediate results don't happen overnight, though, leaving Ellis and his teammates with just one option -- believing in a popular A's fan phrase, "In Billy we trust."
"We have to," Ellis said. "We don't have a choice, but Billy has a great track record."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.