Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Sean Gallagher

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Reader Blog: Trade Winds

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.

Conclusions:
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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2008 Season Recap: Rich Hill and Sean Gallagher

Hill gallagher

At various points over the past two years, I've been a strong advocate for both Rich Hill and Sean Gallagher. At the tail end of the '06 season, I was convinced that Hill would be for real - he threw a ball-busting curve and seemed poised to dominate. And, in '07, he was certainly about as good as advertised - he threw 195 innings of work, he went 11-8, he had a 3.92 ERA, and he struck out 183 batters. Then, he crapped his pants in the playoffs and became trade speculation.

The funny thing about Hill was that he was always hit or miss - there rarely seemed to be an in between. Either he'd go out and pitch a solid game, or he'd go out and get rocked by the opponents. There was no steady pitching until the 5th when he gave up 4. If he had 4 to give up in a game, he'd do it early. This led me to joke that there were two Hill's - Rich and Mitch. Rich Hill was the good pitcher, the reliable lefty with tremendous talent. Mitch was the jealous, evil twin brother of Rich who would occasionally kidnap his good brother and take his place in the rotation. Although they were twins, it was easy to tell them apart - Mitch had one of those evil, curling mustaches and he would pitch while wearing a villanous top hat:

Mitch Hill

There were basically two camps on Hill before the start of the '08 season. Camp Untouchable argued that Hill did well in his first full season and, because the Cubs controlled his contract for essentially the next half decade, his greatest value was to the team. Camp Trade, however - and I was a member of this group - argued that Hill was effective and reliable, but he was not a #2 pitcher, he had no ace-like qualities, and he would best serve the Cubs by being traded in order to upgrade the rotation. But, just to prove to you that I don't always think I'm right, I had stumped for Erik Bedard to be the pitcher the Cubs should have pursued.

It actually turned out that we were all wrong. Hill was neither reliable nor effective in 2008. In fact, he only pitched in 19.2 innings at the Major League level, and he walked 18 batters to 15 strikeouts in that time frame. Concerned for him, the Cubs sent him back to Arizona to work out his kinks, which he never really did. He got roughed up in Iowa, was sent to work out the kinks in Mesa, and was briefly shut down on July 1st after only going 1/3 of an inning. Hill pitched once more on July 8th and did well enough to warrant continued work, but he failed to "get right" this past season. His final figures - 9.1 IP in Arizona ball, 5 walks. 12.1 IP in A+ ball, 11 walks, an 8.03 ERA. 26 IP in AAA ball, 28 walks, a 5.88 ERA.

The Hill saga continues even now. The Tribune has reported that Rich Hill has been pitching in Venezuela for winter ball, where he's seen moderate success. But what is certain is that in 2008 Hill went from wonder to horror, and while the Cubs certainly didn't seem to miss him in the long-run, it's too bad that they failed to get anything of value from Hill.

Sean Gallagher

When Hill went down, Gallagher found his chance to shine. At the age of 22, Gallagher is a pitcher with a lot of promise - he has 3 above average pitches and has succeeded at every level he's pitched. I had a feeling that he probably would be erratic at best in '08, but he appears to have a long future ahead of him which should include success at the major league level.

Then, after 10 starts and 3 wins, the Cubs traded Gallagher to the A's for an older pitcher with a history of arm problems and a contract that expires in one more season, and I rejoiced. After all, as much as I like Gallagher, Harden is a phenom.

Therefore, I would argue that Gallagher's season was very successful for the Cubs. He pitched effectively for a third of the season and then landed Chicago the best stuff starter they've had in 5 years. Thanks, Sean, and good luck.

And now, MY $0.02 about Dick Harden

What does XM know about mid-season pitching acquisitions, anyway?

Even though Hendry, et al. are adamant about this trade is not a knee-jerk to the Sabathia deal, I did the math and I am willing to bet that Gallagher was not part of the deal until yesterday.  Billy Beane was lusting after him, for good reason.  Gallagher has guts, he does not give up when he doesn't have his best stuff (paging: the Marquis de Suck) and we are going to hate losing him.

I am very happy for Murton, as he is finally going to get the chance he deserves.  I wish him quite well in his endeavors, and we are going to hate the numbers he puts up in the next few years.

Lil' Strut can kiss my butt, and Donaldson is already a self-inflated headcase with a keen sense of his own worth.  I mean, they play Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar" when he comes to the plate already?  I guess he's big in Boise.  Don't be scared of losing him; this is NOT Dontrelle Willis here.

I am glad the trade went down this way.  If for some reason we completed our trade first, and then the Brewers countered with theirs, that would give them the clear psychological edge.  Some may say that the trade was reactive, but Hendry is correct when he says that you just don't pick up the phone, call Billy Frickin' Beane and ask "Hey, the Brewers just got CC.  What can you do for us?"

Some are also questioning Harden's health, that his last two starts were only for 5 innings apiece, that his most recent start against the Sux was one of his worst this year, and that Beane doesn't just give up on good players for no reason - he must be damaged goods.  Mmm hmm, yep, Dan Haren looks real shitty.  Beane's trading record has been excellent, but even he gives up value sometimes. 

All in all, I think Uncle Lou said it best when he noted that he is "...glad that Jim is so competitive.  The Brewers got a ace lefthander, and he went out and got a good righthander."  This is just what we needed.

Any takers on the Cardinals getting A. J. Burnett later on today? 

Rich Harden to Cubs

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
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.

Harden a Cub - now official

670 The Score and ESPN 1000 are both reporting that Rich Harden may now be a Cub - Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton are the names I'm hearing right now. Updates as they happen.

UPDATE: Hendry presser live. Trade official. Murton, Gallagher, and Eric Patterson are definately involved. A "minor leaguer" is also involved.

UPDATE 2: Gallagher, Donaldson, Patterson and Murton go to As; Cubs get Harden and Chad Gaudin. I don't even know who Gaudin is yet. Josh Donaldson is a catcher in our minor league system and one of our best prospects.

UPDATE 3: Here's the Trib link. And here's Harden's stats; Gaudin's stats.

Harden's contract:

signed 4-year deal worth 9M thru 2008 season that superceded deal for 2005 season on 4/2/05- + he receives a 1M signing bonus and salaries of 500K in 2005, 1M in 2006, 2M in 2007, and 4.5M in 2008- + the deal includes a Team Option for 2009 worth 7M with no buyout- + the deal includes escalators based on IP that could increase the total value of the deal to 18M- + the option could vest by 2006 or 2007 if certain targets based on combinations of back-to-back 200 IP seasons and top 5 Cy Young Award finishes are reached

Friday Odds and Ends, Pitching Is King Edition

Sean Gallagher goes to the pen, Sean Marshall stays in the rotation. (Meanwhile, Jason Marquis stays in the rotation. Isn’t life grand?) Piniella says that Marmol is starting to be a “little bit of a concern.” Out in Cub fandom the words “full blown panic” might be more descriptive.

As the All Star Break nears, trade rumors mount. Chris DeLuca runs them down. Short version: the Cubs could pursue Sabathia or Harden if they had better prospects, or Randy Wolf if they didn’t learn a lesson from the Steve Trachsel deal last season. DeLuca adds:

Another Padre who definitely might interest Hendry is former Cub Greg Maddux.

Definitely might.

Meanwhile, the Toronto papers are split on whether or not Burnett is or isn’t being shopped for a shortstop. The team’s president denies actively shopping Burnett, but says the Jays could deal him to “affects the long range betterment of the club.” Spoken like a Canadian.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are in the thick of the bidding for Sabathia. Rosenthal says that the Cubs and Phillies can’t match the Brewers’ farm system.

Trading Bedard is not priority number one for the Mariners, but they’re not ruling it out. Stark also makes a valuable point:

There's no commodity teams chase harder at the deadline than starting pitching. And it's mind-boggling how rarely it gets them anywhere. … So remember, friends, there's no assurance that trading for a C.C. Sabathia is going to give your team any better chance of winning the World Series than trading for, say, Tim Redding. And that's a fact.

The reason, said [Rockies GM Dan] O'Dowd, is simply that those starting pitchers only get to play every five days. So "just look at the number of starts a starting pitcher is going to get by the end of September," he said. "It's probably 10. So if the guy doesn't dominate in eight of those 10 starts, it's a disappointing trade."

Too true.

Trading for a pitcher - harder than it seems

Okay, I am pretending to be Jumbo Jim Hendry now, which is a mental exercise I go through nearly every day.  If only I enjoyed, say, the Bowflex or the LifeCycle as much.

I am extremely hesitant to mess with my team's chemistry right now, and thus my list of untouchables is much longer than Kyle's at this point.  Here is what I am willing to part with for a pitcher:

  • Column "A" - starting pitchers - Hill OR Marshall OR Gallagher
  • Column "B" - line drive hitters - Murton OR Hofpauir OR Colvin
  • Column "C" - middle infielders - Patterson OR Cedeno OR Fontenot

I would prefer one from Column "A", one from Column "B", and one from Column "C".  What do you suppose that would buy me?

I think it would buy me A. J. Burnett.  I also agree with most that believe that Burnett is just a slightly less xtreme Kerry Wood.

I do not think it would buy me Erik Bedard.  Maybe Bill Bavasi would have taken that bait, but the new guy is going to be a bit more hesitant, waiting for the big score.  He'd probably want TWO from Column "A", Colvin and Cedeno.  I'm not really willing to give him Gallagher AND Marshall AND Cedeno for Bedard.

I would give the Indians all that for Sabathia.  I am still unconvinced of Cedeno's baseball IQ, I don't think Marshall has more than 4th starter potential, and I'm not sure Colvin is what he thinks he is.  So sure, I'd give that up. 

But I don't think the Tribe is going to settle for that.  They are going to go into this, ultimately, wanting Soto - since Victor Martinez seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  Of course, I tell them no plucking way, but now I am on the defensive.  They probably think they are entitled to two from Column A PLUS either Soulpatch Reed, Theriot or Marky Mark.

If this were the offseason, and I was guaranteed I could sign the Big Sunnybitch, I might give it more consideration.  But not now.  They can't have anyone out of my regular lineup when we are leading the MLB.  No way I phuck with that. 

So...harder than you think.  Most here would prefer that either Marshall comes back and takes charge, or Gallagher takes another step up and takes charge, or maybe Hill extracts his thumb from his ass and takes charge.  There is a certain 'retained value' to this scenario, true.  But I have always believed that deserving players should get what they deserve, and that their current team should do what they can to make sure that happens; to not stand in the way of their development.  I believe that RIGHT NOW Murton and Hofpauir deserve to play every day for an AL team, and Marshall deserves to start for an ML team, and that Cedeno deserves to play every day for an ML team. 

Just not mine.

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