Jim Hendry-Cubs: Reviewing Hendry's Trade History

Michael AshkenasiContributor IJanuary 14, 2010

CHICAGO - MAY 19: General manager Jim Hendry of the Chicago Cubs talks with members of the media before a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 19, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I agree with a lot of you that Jim Hendry has made some truly bone-headed moves, especially in free agency, over the last few years. However, I want to look back at how good of a trader he's been as the GM of the Cubs.

I will look through 2002-2009, limiting strictly to trades (whether in season or offseason) that involved at least one significant major leaguer. I'll also look at if the people received in the trade were later traded again, what the result was, and assign grades to Hendry's ability to spin straw into gold.

Let me know what you guys think:

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                     GRADE

2002                T. Gordon for three nobodys                 Wash

                      J. Fassero for two nobodys                    Wash

                      B. Mueller for one nobody                        C-


In bad years, sending off your soon-to-be free agent relievers to other teams for marginal prospects is par for the course.

However, getting nothing for a decent 3B, who later went on to win an AL batting title and was always noted to be a good clubhouse guy, isn't the best Jim could have done.

And unless he's psychic, there's no way he could have known he'd be getting the best Cub's 3B since Ron Santo in the next 12 months.

Overall grade: C-

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                     GRADE

2003          T. Hundley for E. Karros & M. Grudzelanek         A

                Three nobodys for A. Ramirez + K. Lofton          A-


Hendry spun an awful contract for two very important pieces that improved the Cubs infield and helped them win their first division title. Although I hated the way the Cubs let my favorite all-time Cub Mark Grace walk after the '01 season, I really liked the way Karros went about his business, his enthusiasm, etc.

The only downside was assuming Corey Patterson was going to be better than K. Lofton over the next few years because he was younger. Letting Lofton walk has left a perpetual hole in the lead off spot.

Overall grade: A-

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                                  GRADE

2004                H. Choi for D. Lee                                           A+  

                      D. Miller for M. Barrett                                       B-

                      Three nobodys for N. Garciaparra + M. Murton       A-


The first base-upgrade was probably the best trade Hendry pulled off in terms of long-term effects (the Lofton-Ramirez grade is a very close second, due to the aforementioned letting Lofton walk).

The catcher trade to sacrifice some defense for decent offense worked out for the next few years, and the Garciaparra trade was a bold move that didn't work out that year, but netted a couple years of Matt Murton in exchange for three guys who weren't heard from again.

Overall Grade:  A-

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                           GRADE

2005                S. Sosa for M. Fontenot                             A

                      K. Farnsworth for R. Novoa                          Wash

                      L. Hawkins for J. Williams + D. Aardsma          C

                     (who later was spun for N. Cotts)


Not having to pay Sosa's full salary was blessing enough, but getting rid of a clubhouse diva along with corked-bat and steroid distractions for a player who wasn't thought of as much, until he crushed right-handed pitching for the next few years (2009 excluded), was a terrific move.

Farnsworth has never turned his electric stuff into consistent good numbers, and Novoa was never heard from again. For Hawkins, I always felt like he got a bad rap and the fans were too tough on him. His numbers as a Cub were never bad, but the blown saves in the closer role doomed him. Who knows how he would have done if they just kept him in the setup role?

Shedding the excess salary was nice, but spinning off Aardsma for the awful N. Cotts, combined with Aardsma's '09 numbers with the Mariners, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall grade:  B

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                            GRADE

2006                S. Mitre, R. Nolasco, R. Pinto for J. Pierre        D+

                      J. Hairston for P. Nevin                                 B-

                      T. Walker for J. Ceda                                    C+

                     (who later was spun for K. Gregg)

                      G. Maddux for C. Izturis                                 C-


This team was a disaster and most blame falls on Hendry. On top of that, his trades weren't that great. In the offseason, he traded three prospects (Nolasco had been off and on but showed flashes of brilliance, while Pinto was a solid lefty bullpen option) for Juan Pierre, who is basically Sam Fuld with a weaker outfield arm.

There are a lot of things I like about Juan Pierre, but Hendry didn't even offer arbitration to get draft picks when he signed with the Dodgers. Trading Hairston for Nevin was a try-and-get-rich-quick scheme. Even though Nevin provided power, that team wasn't going anywhere.

Walker for Ceda still doesn't make sense to me, as Walker was a solid hitter. And even though the Cubs wanted to thank Maddux for coming back by letting him go to a contender, is a shortstop with no offense really the best we could have done?

Overall grade: C

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                     GRADE

2007                J. Jones—O. Infante—J. Ascanio              B+

                      J. Grabow & T. Gorzelanny


As we all know, this offseason turned the Cubs into big spenders, with one of the highest payrolls in the game. But really, the only notable move was sending underachieving Jones packing for a utility infielder. That infielder, along with malcontent W. Ohman, was sent to the Braves for Ascanio. And Ascanio and Kevin Hart were sent to the Pirates for J. Grabow and T. Gorzelanny.

Although Hendry gave Grabow too much money in his new deal, he's a decent middle-relief option that will give you innings and work just as good against righties and lefties. Gorzelanny may be the hidden gem, as he showed last year that he could be a good starter again (ignore the ERA, focus on WHIP). Even if not, he would be great as a lefty specialist.

Overall grade: B+

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                                            GRADE

2008             M. Murton + three nobodys for R. Harden + C. Gaudin         A


This team was stacked from the beginning and this trade made them better.

I always liked Murton and felt he never really got a fair shot in the majors (maybe he'll do better in Japan now). Hendry sold high on Sean Gallagher (just like he would later do with Kevin Hart), sending him to the A's along with a couple of borderline players, for one of the most dominating pitchers in the game (albeit when healthy) and a fifth starter/long relief man.

I don't really know why Gaudin was later sent packing, but Harden was absolutely filthy in '08, and like the Garciaparra trade in '04, I love it when a GM goes for the jugular by getting an impact player.

Overall grade: A

YEAR                   TRANSACTION                                      GRADE

2009                J. Marquis for L. Vizcaino                         C-

                      F. Pie—G. Olsen—A. Heilman                    TBD

                      S. Maine

2010               A. Miles + J. Fox for Jeff Gray                  TBD

                     M. Bradley for C. Silva                             B-


I liked the fact that Hendry saved money, because paying a fourth-fifth starter, like Marquis, with $10 million in his final year wasn't worth it. But he never gave Vizcaino a chance, a guy who had pitched solid innings for Arizona and the White Sox, among others, as a decent middle-relief guy (especially against right-handers).

Hendry sent him packing ostensibly for D. Patton of all people, and had to pay him almost $4 million last year. I don't worry too much about how good Marquis started out with Colorado, because, like always, he faded down the stretch and by the end of the year his numbers weren't terrific, just average.

Pie quietly had a decent season for Baltimore in a less-pressured environment, and A. Heilman was never able to regain his '06-'07 Mets glory. It remains to be seen how good S. Maine might be, as well as Jeff Gray, but I'm not really sold on him as a worthwhile prospect.

But not having to pay A. Miles' full salary this year is almost worth the chance that Jake Fox becomes a DH for the A's that has an OPS above .850. I actually liked the Bradley deal because the money saved this year turned in to Marlon Byrd, but I think if we threw some money at the Rays in '11, we could have done Burrell for Bradley.

And I think Burrell is much more primed for a rebound than Silva, who will do absolutely nothing and be released right away.

Overall grade: To Be Determined

In summary, Hendry was great at trades between 2003-2005 and 2007-2008 and not so great in the other years. He's shown a great ability at taking advantage of smaller-market clubs' payroll limitations to pounce on great players. Also, he's never truly been swindled in a trade although some could have been better.

Hendry as a TRADER only (ignore his bad free agent signings): B+


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