Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.
2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.
Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty. He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.
Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.
Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.
2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.
Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.
2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!
2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.
Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.
The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood. Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.
As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.
2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.
Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.
2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off. These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.
Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.
2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.
This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.
2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.
WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.
2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.
Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.
Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece. Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.
Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.
2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.
And the Trixies wept.
2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.
Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.
Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals. Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.
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Chad Gaudin (0-2, 4.08 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-2, 4.98 ERA)
The Cubs are looking for a sweep, which has been rare this season, but totally doable against the lowly San Diego Padres. If you can believe it, the Cubs are only .5 games back of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. Of course, the Brewers also share the lead, while the Cubs are tied with the Reds (Is that possible?). The Brewers and Cardinals are in action today, and they actually play each other this weekend.
This afternoon also marks the return of Chad Gaudin (or Mr. Crazy Bread Face) to Wrigley Field. Gaudin was terrible in Spring Training, but the Cubs might be able to use him now. At this point, I'm pretty sure I would rather have a veteran rather than David Patton.
Can we stop giving up 2-run home runs to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning? That is getting a little crazy.
For the Cubs, Ryan Dempster takes the hill once again for the Cubs. He pitched against the Brewers last time out and gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in a loss. He still hasn't been as dominate as last year. At times he has looked solid, but he hasn't been commanding his pitches. His main problem is leaving balls up in the zone, which has been translating into balls that are hit hard. It would be really nice to see him turn in a nice string of starts.
Ryan Theriot - Who cares about two nights ago? An 0-for-5, no big deal. Now, last night, that was the real Theriot. He blasted two home runs and is well on his way to 20+. Theriot is slugging .480 this season. Now, I don't think he will keep slugging that high. But a .400 percentage would career-high for a full season.
Kosuke Fukudome - He might be this season's biggest surprise. He's currently riding a 6-game hitting streak.
Geovanny Soto - Soto hit some balls real hard last night, including his first home run of the season. His average is up to .193. Hopefully he is coming out of the slump, because the Cubs really could use it with Aramis Ramirez out for a while.
Derrek Lee - While Soto is up to .193, Lee has fallen to .194 on the season. Not to mention, he looks totally lost at the plate. I wouldn't be shocked if Lee didn't see some time on DL, or at least get a break to give Micah Hoffpauir a few ABs.
Mike Fontenot - Maybe the Cubs are lucky guys like Ryan Freel and Bobby Scales are on the roster, because Fontenot is back in a slump. He's 1-for-22 in his last 7 games.
The Cubs are primed for a sweep if they can get to Gaudin early, and keep the offense going. I really feel like Dempster was moved up on regular rest to face the worse lineup, so it should mean a Cubs victory (I hope).
The Cubs did the unthinkable today -- they cut Chad Gaudin.
It's actually not that surprising, and is only unthinkable in the sense that a year ago he was the "pitcher insurance" the team needed to take on Rich Harden. Since then he's gone on to become most notable for his facial hair, which is not what you want to be known for if you're a Major League pitcher. (Instead, you might want to be recognized for your amazing ability at getting players out.)
In cutting Gaudin, the Cubs have freed up room on their roster for Angel Guzman (who's pitched poorly, but Gaudin was just that bad) and Dave Patton (who was the Rule 5 pick and before this Spring had never tossed fastballs above A ball).
It kind of goes back to what I said in a post not too long ago. Youth can only get you so far. Gaudin is young enough to bounce back, but he wasn't talented enough to bounce back with the Cubs.
Not too long ago somebody requested that we do a Player Preview for Patton. Since he's team-bound, we'll be sure to provide you with one tomorrow ... which is opening day.
Somebody has to ask it: what the hell is he thinking? Maybe he saw Reed Johnson last year, decided his popularity was because of the beard, and decided to bite off it? Or perhaps Gaudin is expressing his admiration for his all-time favorite movie Deliverance? Maybe he's just crazy?
Whatever it is, Gaudin looks like he sprung fully grown from the idiot factory. But that's fine - a team that once sported striped baby-blue road jerseys really can't say much about a player's looks. The problem with Chad Gaudin is that he is smack in the middle of redefining the concept of "suck."
Just look at those numbers. Wait, don't. Have a stiff drink first, and then let yourself imagine what will happen when Gaudin blows one too many Carlos Zambrano starts in '09. Because if he can't do any better than a 10.54 ERA with 20 hits, 9 walks, and 4 homers surrendered, then it will be a long, tough 2009 for the Bush Man of N'Awleans.
The thing of it is, Gaudin is young enough and has had enough success to lead me to believe that he could be a dependable pitcher for the Cubs. His career ERA's not great, but he really has posted acceptable numbers as a starter. The only problem is that youth and past success will only get you so far in life ... just ask Jerome Williams. The man with the creepy necklace was traded to Chicago at the age of 23, a year after a 10-win, 4.24 ERA season, and was out of baseball entirely by the age of 26.
So maybe Gaudin will rebound from his terrible spring and horror-movie-like facial hair. Maybe he'll be the insurance option the Cubs were angling for when they pulled the trigger on Rich Harden. Or maybe he's just another big ol' turd. We'll find out soon enough.
I saw this on Deadspin today and it about killed me. I thought it was one of the demented kids from the Stephen King bizarro world, or perhaps just a demented leprechaun. It IS close to St. Paddy's Day, don't you know? UPDATE: The Hoff is maintaining his vulgar display of power by dialing long distance AGAIN today. Cubs 7, other guys 0, 2nd inning.
or: As I Lick My Wounds After My Dreadful Performance Last Night On The On-line Jeapordy Game Show Tryout
So, be careful what you wish for, huh?
Who's been beating the drums for Hendry to trade his "spare parts"? Me, that's who! So he did, and ended up with one of his "guys" who he's been lusting after for years. Jim Duquette, former GM for the Mets, said Hendry was calling him five years ago about Aaron Heilmann, and he (jokingly?) said maybe he should have listened better...in case you haven't heard by now, Aaron has been the Mets' LaTroy Hawkins-equivalent for a few years. The comparison is intentional - like Hawkins insisting he was NOT a closer, Heilmann has insisted that he is NOT a reliever. I am of course the world's largest proponent of the mindset of a player being a key determinent to success, and I am now beginning to understand why everyone in Queens wanted to kick this guy's ass.
We have seen the past few years that Hendry gets a hard-on for certain guys, and sometimes they work out great, ala Reed Johnson. Sometimes, they don't, right, Mike Barrett? And Heilmann is this year's Hendu-Du-Jour. Glad we got that out of his system, and all it cost us? Two former prospects who will never, ever do anything for us, who were out of options, and by their absence makes this a cleaner, brighter, better-smelling Cubs team. So let's see what has been wrought.
Kurt outlined the certain fifth-starter competition, and although I think it will appear on the outside exactly the way he describes it, I think we can pretty much assume that it is a 2-man competition, with the winner taking up the FOURTH spot, and the loser getting traded a week before opening day.
Lemme explain. Jeff Samardzjaiaia (aka Shark) is going to start the season in the Iowa starting rotation, unless he simply BLOWS away everyone and steps into the Big Shoes. Shark's relief days are over. He's a great reliever, got great stuff, and would be a great 8th inning guy for the 2009 Cubs. This is going to sound contradictory to everything I have preached this winter, that all stops need to be pulled out. But this guy seems to have a level of leverage over his own existence, due to his contract or his ability to enter the NFL on a whim, or some other factor, like maybe compromising photos of Omeri Flieta. So the organizational directive for the Shark is to allow him to start in 2009. Well, at least until they get enough of Luis Vizcaino.
Then you have Sean Marshall, which I have previously touched upon as a man who may be too unselfish for his own good. He could probably get 35 starts in Texas or Seattle, or San Diego. I feel he has the least upside of the candidates, but his lefthandedness and his unassuming nature makes him invaluable to Lou Pinella as a swing-man. Unless HE just blows people away in Spring Training, I think Marshall will pretty much serve in the exact same role he filled the past two years.
Which leaves us with Gaudin and Heilmann, who are pretty much the same guy; namely, fifth starters turned relievers. Guys who CLAIM to have 3-4 pitches, but excuse themselves by saying it is impossible to harness all their pitches while in the pen. Guys who will tell everyone who stands still long enough that they are born to be starters; they prefer the structure, the routine, the ability to fight their way out of their own messes, rather than clean up someone else's. Guys who have the inflexible ego, but not the amazing stuff. If Gaudin had the stuff, then HE would be Rich Harden, HE would be guaranteed a spot on our rotation, regardless of his durability issues. But it is Harden that makes guys smack themselves on their heads with their bats, not Gaudin or Heilmann. So Harden rests easy, knowing he will make his 25 starts this year, while other, tougher hombres sweat out the situation.
However, dealing with the here and now, I call it a two-man race, barring either injury or an otherworldly jump by either Marshall or the Shark. In a perfect world, I would want Jake Peavy, of course, to push the other guys down a slot, and tell Gaudin and Heilmann that this is a Big Blue Train, and you can get on and sit where we tell you, or stay off. Since THAT ain't gonna happen, then whoever shows the most to Uncle Lou this spring will end up slotted between Lilly and Harden. To me, this is preferable to going out and throwing more money at a Randy Wolf or Braden Looper. If either of these guys are able to put their money where their mouth is (like Dempster did last year), then the victor should be able to at least match the performance of the Marquis du Suck, and hopefully exceed it. We then reserve the "Wolf money" to patch any unforeseen holes at the trade deadline, by pilfering some poor arbitration-eligible from the Pirates or the Marlins.
The last question will then become what to do with the loser of the Gaudin-Heilmann derby. Sending him to Des Moines isn't an option....
...."Wait, why don't we just put him back in the pen?" Ain't gonna work. Haven't you been watching the past two years? Pinella has zero patience for guys who chafe in their role, and God bless him. I maintain that the greatest reason behind his managerial success is that he makes sure guys want to do what they are doing, and if they don't, he lops them off like unsightly skin moles. He sure as hell doesn't want some 'prima-donna' bitching about starting when he's relieving. He isn't going to put anyone out there who he might think is gonna make us look bad. You notice how well he hid Gaudin this fall?
Mark my words, both Gaudin and Heilmann will start in the majors this year. Just not necessarily for us.
We're still waiting on Byron to provide us with a season recap for Kerry Wood, but I thought I'd just keep the train moving and write up about legendary relievers Chad Gaudin and Neal Cotts.
Actually, while neither is about to become a Hero of the Revolution or anything, the Cubs have certainly had worse relievers in the past. (Talk about your lukewarm endorsement, eh?) Let's break it down lefty-righty:
Lefty: Neal Cotts
Take a look at these lines - 13.1 IP 8.10 ERA, 65.1 IP 5.65 ERA, 60.1 IP 1.94 ERA, 54 IP 5.17 ERA, 16.2 IP 4.86 ERA, 35.2 IP 4.29 ERA.
I emboldened the proverbial red-headed step child of Neal's career - That One Year What He Was Good. It was also the year that the White Sox won the Series, coincidentally or not. One thing is for certain - that year coupled with the hand he picks his nose with are the only two reasons why he has a job. Cotts admittedly strikes out a lot of guys, but he isn't particularly effective, and while Lou tried to use him as the Lefty Specialist this past season, Cotts actually did worse against his bretheren than he did against righties. In fact, they batted .269 against him with an .851 OPS. Ugly.
Unfortunately, Cotts is the defacto lefty specialist for '09, unless Jim Hendry grabs one of the free agents out there or pulls off a great trade. But on the bright side, just how much damage can one player do in 35-50 innings of work?
Righty: Chad Gaudin
When Gaudin was the throw-in player of the Rich Harden trade, Cub fans rejoiced. After all, at the age of 25 and with a track record as a starting pitcher, Gaudin is the insurance policy for Harden's explosive shoulder and elbow. We also believed - and perhaps still believe - that Gaudin made Jason Marquis minimally the 7th best starting pitcher on the team.
Then, Gaudin lost effectiveness. No, I mean he seriously started to suck. But up until August 22nd, Gaudin's ERA as a Cub was 2.75 in about 20 innings of work. Then, he gave up a very, very ugly 6 earned runs to the Nationals, pitched twice, and spent a long amount of time on the bench waiting for his back to get healthy enough to allow him to pitch again. He managed to make 5 appearances in September, 4 of which were during Chicago losses, and he accumulated an ERA of 15.75 for the month.
In other words, he's a bit of a dark horse. Gaudin just might be a talented middle reliever who will eat innings and get outs, he may even be a starter next season, or he might be little more than an insurance policy that never delivers, even when called upon.
Later today, in theory, will be Kerry Wood. Tomorrow will be Bob Howry.
A couple of brief pitching-related thoughts for today:
- We need to go back to the days where the Official Scorer is given more leeway as to the determination of the winning pitcher. Much has been said about how hard it is to win 20 games anymore, and certainly the five-man rotation is the biggest culprit. (Now that I am writing this, I should have tried to find an article on how the five-man came to be - I suspect it came from Earl Weaver - and I bet it was probably because he HAD five quality starters, and wanted to use them all, and the rest of the league, as it always does, simply mimics the successful teams without considering whether or not they had five pitchers worth the consideration).
And we have seen plenty of games like yesterday's, where the bullpen blows a lead, and in fact the man responsible for coughing up the lead ends up being "rewarded" with the W when his own team comes back.
Although coming out of a game after 5 innings and 82 pitches is the antithesis of what a warrior should be, fact is that Zambrano, not Gaudin, deserved the win yesterday. If Zambrano ends up with 18 or 19 wins this year, I am going to remember the August 3rd game. I know in the past, the official scorer had the ability to deny the win that automatically went to Gaudin, in favor of rewarding the pitcher who "was most effective". I don't remember if this applied just to relievers, or if starters were ever part of the equation, but Z got screwed out of a win here.
I understand we're just talking baseball card stats, but it just seems so unfair.
- Mr. Wood got on the radio today and proclaimed himself ready for action, tonight, if need be. He also reveals that he has declined the opportunity to rehab in the minors, which in the past was something he readily accepted. Peoria and Des Moines know him well.
Part of his new attitude may be due to his new role - since he is now responsible for only one inning, he feels he can get back in touch as a middle-inning guy for a few days. Part may also be due to the recent showing by Alfonso Soriano - with very minimal minor league rehab, and a few initial days of struggle, he has come back hotter than ever.
I'm not sure, though, that this is going to be as easy as Kerry thinks. First of all, the move will require that someone else either moves down, or out. I'm not sure what purpose in life Scott Eyre serves on this team, and I think Mr. Bob Howry could use some downtime. But either one MAY be more effective at this point than Bandaid Kerry. Regardless, someone will have to go, which when taken into consideration with the imminent return of Jon Lieber, is going to require some tough choices, which you'd like to hold off on until everyone involed is completely ready.
Second, and in my mind most importantly is I do not believe that Carlos Marmol will be able to function in the closer role if Wood is on the roster. Even if Wood has already pitched or is otherwise made unavailable on a particular game, I can see this flying apart badly. So much of Marmol's game is necessitated on his intense concentration on EACH pitch he throws, and I can see Wood's mere presence as a distraction as Marmol tries to get the three biggest outs of each game.
It's illogical as hell, I know. I can't throw up any stats or cite too many examples where this has happened. Let's just stick this idea in the back of your mind; and if Wood comes back for the StL series as a middle reliever, and Marmol comes in for a save but is not focused, let's just chalk this up to another example of the Big League Athletes and Their Dependence on Knowing Their Roles theorem.
My boss just emailed me and said that Bruce Levine is on ESPN 1000 reporting the following:
RH Pitcher Rich Harden of A's going to Cubs per ESPN.
ERA is 2.34. Record is 5-1 I think.
Cubs giving up 4-5 players/prospects. Not sure who.
You can thank my boss for the scoop.
Update 5:33 pm: Matt Murton and Eric Patterson are involved.
Update 5:34 pm: Sean Ghallager, too.
Geez, this is going to be an expensive trade.
Update: 5:48 pm: The Hendry Press conference just ended. Here's the trade: Cubs get Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin (a RHP currently in the A's pen.) The Cubs give up: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, and a minor league guy whose name was not familiar to me (Josh Donaldson).
Hendry basically said they've been discussing the deal for two weeks, trading names back and forth. The player that Billy Beane absolutely wanted and that Hendry did not want to give up was Sean Gallagher. Hendry spoke highly of both Murton and Gallagher's character but didn't take the opportunity to extend those remarks to Eric Patterson.
Lou's on, update to follow.
Update 6:08 pm Lou just finished up. He had some great quotes as usual but didn't add too much. Apparently Gaudin played for him in Tampa, but Lou didn't actively lobby for him as Lou didn't find out about the deal until today at 3:00.
When quizzed by one of the beat reporters (Hendry has been working on this for two weeks.) Lou laughed it off, "without me. Ha ha ha." Lou then went on to say that Hendry and he had talked on Friday and that Hendry knew they weren't going to be able to get Sabathia, but Hendry said there might be someone else.
The Quotable Lou Piniella
"Yesterday, Milwaukee made a deal for a real good left handed starter and today Jim went out and got himself a real good righty. It just shows how competitive he is." – Lou Piniella
"We gave up some kids for the present. As a manager you love to see an organization go out and help you." – Lou Piniella
"The Cubs are going to do everything in their power to help us win." – Lou Piniella
"This makes us better and we're very very pleased." – Lou Piniella
Matt Murton shows off his arm in a game against the Giants.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery
It's a sad day to see Carrot-top leave Chicago, but boy is that red hair going to clash with Oakland green and gold.