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July 2011



Northside Archives: Repeating History

Written by , Posted in General

July 19, 2011, Des Moines Register, Rick Brown interviews Cubs GM Jim Hendry.  “I’ve been on both sides of it,” Hendry said.  “I haven’t changed any[thing] since we won 97 games in 2008.  I’ve worked just as hard.”

Indeed, Jim Hendry HAS partied like it was 2008.  The 2008 Cubs had Rich Hill, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee, Micah Hoffpauir, Eric Patterson, Felix Pie, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot just to name a few.

Hendry turned that stack of prospects into 1.5 years of Rich Harden and 1 season of Aaron Heilman.  Seriously, that’s it.

(Note: Since we basically forced the Dodgers to take Theriot in the Lilly deal, and they didn’t re-sign him, it’s intellectually dishonest to say that we got anything back for Theriot)

Three things strike me about that list of former Cubs.  First, of the guys that were traded, none were traded at the peak of their value.  Second, some of those guys never got a fair shake with the Cubs – a legit shot at an everyday job.  Lastly, what we received for that host of prospects is pathetic; a year and a half of a chronically injured 5-inning pitcher and a year of a mediocre reliever – not coincidently, those are two positions of excess with the 2011 Cubs.

“We’re not going to move people that we think are going to help us,” Hendry said.  “Why would I trade Sean Marshall? Why would I trade Darwin Barney? Those calls kind of stop quickly.  It makes no sense.”

As a refresher, let’s recap exactly how each player was jettisoned: Hill, Gallagher, Murton, Cedeno, Patterson, Pie, Theriot, and Fontenot were all traded.  McGehee was released.  Hoffpauir asked to be released.

Hendry traded Cedeno, Pie, and Hill mostly because they were out of options and unlikely to make the roster.  In particular, Hill’s trade value had reached an absurd high after 2007.  He had been a part of a rumored package for the Cubs to acquire Carl Crawford.  Whether the Rays were truly interested or not is of little consequence, the rumors illustrate how high Hill’s value was at that juncture.  Pie and Cedeno never had quite that buzz about them, but certainly we didn’t need to wait to dump them until their value was at its absolute lowest.  Frankly, the Orioles and Mariners did us a favor by trading for these guys, it’s very likely that they would have been waived to start the season and could’ve been picked up for nothing.

The parallel is Sean Marshall, Darwin Barney, and insert any OF that the Cubs have rotated up to the MLB roster this year.  Yes, Marshall has proven more at the MLB level than Hill ever did.  And maybe we won’t be forced to trade them because we run out of options.  But has Hendry learned NOTHING?  Barney’s sample size is incredibly limited, and I’m sure Marshall is excited that he’s part of the Cubs plan to be good again in 3 years.

McGehee and Hoffpauir weren’t given legit opportunities to stick with the MLB team.  McGehee took his act to Milwaukee where he has flourished.  Hoffpauir took his to Japan.  Hendry received a change purse full of yen in return.  Yeah, the Cubs had All-Stars at first and third – all the more reason to trade these guys EARLY when they’ve yet to realize their potential.  Or we could have moved them to the outfield since it seems to be our current philosophy that anyone can play the outfield.

To be sure, some of those guys were a hot crap to begin with and the Cubs likely didn’t have GMs blowing up the phone to pry them away.   That list has turned into 2 guys in Japan, 1 washed up pitcher, 4 utility players, 1 questionable MLB pitcher, a disgruntled veteran infielder, and Casey McGehee.  I’m thrilled that we hung on to each and every one of those players because “we thought they were going to help us” – only to realize that they weren’t and then subsequently dump them at the least valuable point of their career.

The Cubs aren’t the only team with hot prospects that never pan out – it only seems that way because we hang on to every single player until he DOESN’T pan out.  It makes our system appear more barren than it is, and it gives trade partners more reason for heavy scrutiny when assessing a Cubs prospect.

Of Brett Jackson, Hendry said, “I think he’ll be a 10-year big leaguer.”

Good to know, since Hendry is so familiar with promoting guys who turn out to play a decade in the majors.  Oh wait; we don’t have a SINGLE one under Hendry’s tenure.  Zambrano was technically promoted before Hendry took over.  IF Brett Jackson is so incredible, he better crack the roster soon; but even if that happens, we know that Hendry will never trade him at the peak (or even near the peak) of his value.

(Note: Yes, Castro will almost surely be a 10-year vet, but there’s the rub – between Zambrano and Castro has there been one?  Nope!)

I fear for the future of Tony Campana, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, Chris Carpenter, Brett Jackson, Sean Marshall, and the host of other Cubs’ prospects who will be forced to rot on the Cubs roster until they are so old and so unproven that their trade value is completely exhausted and they’re sent to play for the Orioles or Pirates (although that’s an enticing offer at the moment).

To answer Hendry’s rhetorical question: you’d trade Marshall or Barney because it’s in the BEST interests of the Cubs to get the most of our prospects possible.  Sometimes that means trading Sean Marshall, a left-handed setup man, when capable left-handed setup men are at a premium (i.e. the trade deadline) and the Cubs current roster lacks the requisite talent to compete.  Marshall boasts a current WAR (wins above replacement player) of 1.0 – fantastic.  Glad we’re hanging onto that single win because we MIGHT be good in 3 years, when Sean Marshall MIGHT be good, and we MIGHT need him then!

Hendry wanted his record checked against 2008.  He’s right to compare the two years.  Unfortunately for him, his performance that year didn’t mirror the on-field product.

  • Hendry’s declaration that it “makes no sense” to even entertain offers for Darwin Barney – a solid 24th/25th man, but a weak starting 2B – is as much an indictment of his tenure as GM as anything else (and it’s a long list).

  • Jedi

    By the way, in case it’s misunderstood – I love Sean Marshall. But when you consider that the Cubs have a TON of holes, and setup reliever is a relatively small/easy hole to fill – we’d do better to take advantage of a team that is overvaluing Marshall in a way similar to the Cubs legendary Karchner-Garland trade.

  • “I haven’t changed any[thing] since we won 97 games in 2008. I’ve worked just as hard.”’

    Although I would prefer to watch a mediocre player who is always working hard over a talented guy who is just showing up, my preferences in GMs would run the exact opposite.

    At least when the talented guy bothers to do something, it tends to be something good.

  • I am surprised that there has not been more noise on this blog calling for Marshall to be moved to a starter role. At the beginning of the year we thought we had five good starters, but that ship sank a long time ago.

  • Norm

    “The 2008 Cubs had Rich Hill, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee, Micah Hoffpauir, Eric Patterson, Felix Pie, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot just to name a few.

    Hendry turned that stack of prospects into 1.5 years of Rich Harden and 1 season of Aaron Heilman. Seriously, that’s it.”

    Since they left:
    Rich Hill: 57 innings, -1.6 WAR
    Sean Gallagher: 135 innings, -.6 WAR
    Matt Murton: 129 plate app’s, -.6 WAR
    Ronny Cedeno: 1154 pa’s, 1.9 WAR
    Casey McGehee: 1447 pa’s, 3.5 WAR
    Micah Hoffpauir: Out of baseball
    Eric Patterson: 566 pa’s, -1.4 WAR
    Felix Pie: 729 pa’s, .4 WAR
    Ryan Theriot: 888 pa’s, -.2 WAR
    Mike Fontenot: 219 pa’s, .1 WAR

    Total: 1.5 WAR

    Rich Harden with Cubs: 4.0 WAR
    And you didn’t include minor leaguers like Evan Crawford that the Cubs got in the Fontenot trade. He’s 22 in Single A hitting 333/393/436.

    My point is, NONE of those guys are missed. So….so what?

  • Eddie Von White

    I have always thought Marshall should be a starter and made noise about it on this blog and to anyone else who was polite enough to listen. Why not develop him into a starter instead of wasting him as a set up man? I also thought Rich Hill had potential, just needed time to develop and grow some confidence – instead he walks four guys in a row, Lou throws a tantrum, sends him to the minors and we never hear from him again until he resurfaces in the AL somewhere (Boston I think).

    Even when the Cubs are playing terrible like they are this year, I hate it when they have a day off. Give me Len and Bob, Pat and Keith any day over whatever else is on – I don’t care.

  • Jedi

    Norm, the POINT is that at one time or another, all of those “prospects” had plenty of value. The Cubs held onto them until they were valueless. Hendry refusing to trade Marshall or Barney under any circumstance is repeating that error.

  • Jedi

    When Evan Crawford amounts to anything for the Cubs, he might warrant addition to the list. But so far the Cubs haven’t gotten jack out of him at the MLB level, and with Hendry’s prospect acumen there’s no reason to think that’s going to change with Evan Crawford.

  • Norm

    I disagree. NONE of them outside of Pie and Gallagher ever had any value. And they got value in the Gallagher deal.

    Everyone complained that he moved Archer, Lee, Guyer, Chirinos, and Fuld for Garza because they were such good prospects, but at the same time want to complain in hindsight of not trading other guys.

    • Rick DeFries

      I think that when the cubs traded Fuld and the minor leaguers Guyer, Archer, Lu and Chirinos was completely stupid. They think Castillo will be better than Chirinos, they thought since we have Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro we won’t need Lu, they also thought Oh we have Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin we don’t need Guyer. They thought oh Cashner and Jay Jackson will probably be better than Archer. It really made me mad when they said because of how thin Archer is. Take Tim Lincecum for an instantance. A lot of people thought Matt Cain would be better then him because of Lincecum’s size.. well who’s pitching better now days? Exactly.
      It’s a bunch of malarky I think.I agree on trading Fuld (kid deserves to play some). They could have traded away Campana (instead of Guyer) and then had a future outfield of Tyler Colvin, Brandon Guyer and Brett Jackson. They could have kept Lee (maybe moved Castro to 3rd or something) who has a better arm and is WAY BETTER defensively then Castro. They should have kept Chris Archer and traded Jay Jackson or that Trey McNutt. Garz is a good pitcher but he’s not good enough to give up your top three prospects for.
      Chirinos is already playing in the big leagues as a back up catcher. We should have released Koyie Hill (dude’s taking up space, hes worse than hank white aka Henry Blanco) and we should have gave Chirinos some at bats because Soto needs days off and sometimes gets injured. We just need a new GM and trade away Soriano, Pena, Fukodome and Grabow. We need to keep Barney, Marshall, Marmol and so fourth because they have a big upside.

  • Seymour Butts

    Rumored trades are just that. If you have no actual trading partner, you can’t unload a prospect at what ever zenith their presumed value has.
    As Norm deftly pointed out, only McGehee has any value. What he did not have is a place to play on the Cubs as I still prefer ARam at 3rd.
    It’s OK to hate Hendry, it comes with a crappy season, but the logic of the post is non-existent.

  • Jedi

    I love the broad sweeping terms Norm – everyone, none.

    I’ve not once complained about the Garza deal, I think it suited our needs (granted, the need for starting pitching was created by Hendry’s mismanagement, but still).

    That’s some interesting revisionist history saying that none of the players had trade value. Read the rest of my post, you’ll see the part about Rich Hill’s value after the 2007 season. There was talk that Pie and/or Hoffpauir could be the centerpiece of a deal for Raul Ibanez in 2008. Eric Patterson was the final piece of the deal for Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox – it’s well known that the Padres had their eye on him for a while. I could go on, it’s just not credible to say there was NO market for those guys.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Norm, I can’t speak with the same authority for “everyone,” but I don’t recall Jedi ever saying that the Garza deal was a bad one because we missed out on Archer, Lee, Guyer, Chirinos, and Fuld. In fact it seems like the kind of move he’s arguing for here.

  • Such vitriol.

  • Randay

    Didn’t read the article, saw who wrote it and figured it was a Hendry rant. Was I right?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    “My point is, NONE of these guys are missed. So… so what?”

    In a way, Norm, you’re helping make Jedi’s point there. There was a time where each of those guys had some amount of trade value–high value, in some cases. By holding on to them we basically said they’d bring more to our roster than what we could ge in a trade. And as you’ve astutely pointed out, that wasn’t the case.

    Three years from now we might be saying the same thing about Barney or Marshall. Better to maximize their value now for a team with a lot of needs than hold on to them hoping their best is still yet to come.

  • CurlystoogeIU

    Norm, I’m feeling yeah. If these guys had value, why would we trade them. It wasn’t until they “lost” value, meaning we didn’t think they would pan out for us that we decided to trade them. With the exception of McGee, no one has turned into anything worth missing. It gets old hearing how we should trade nothing, expecting everything in return.(see Soriano) Trading for prospects is a crap shot. Just look at the Pirates. They have been sellers for 18 years and are just now gathering the talent to make them worth a damn.

    I also think Hendry should go, he’s had to many misses but this consistent bashing is getting old. Bet no one was doing it when we went to back to back playoffs for the first time since my old man was born.

  • Norm

    To say that Hendry hasn’t traded away players at their peak value for the good of the team is ignoring obvious moves like Aram, D.Lee, Pierre (even though it didn’t work), Harden, DeRosa, and Garza.
    And since minor leaguers apparently don’t count in assessing the trade, how is trading Sean Marshall going to help? You think you’re going to get a major league 1B for him? A major league Starting Pitcher?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Norm, I think it’s reasonable to think you could get a couple solid prospects for Marshall–maybe 1B or 3B, or a couple pitchers, or some combination thereof. It seems like we all agree this team has a couple years of rebuilding ahead of it. It would be nice if the GM was making moves that reflected that. Holding on to the precious few working pieces we have now won’t necessarily bear any fruit by the time the Cubs are competitive again.

  • Jedi

    Norm, where on my list of 2008 players was I wrong; who on that list did Hendry trade at the peak of their value? I’ve never suggested that Hendry has never once done it – only that there exists a distinct parallel between our unwillingness to trade our current prospects/young MLB talent in the same manner that we were unwilling with those Cubs from the 2008 roster. That’s the team Hendry was citing in his favor. I believe it’s a further indication of his inability to properly value talent.

  • Norm

    But Jedi, the Garza trade alone contradicts that theory.
    Jeremiah, *prospects* yes, but Jedi doesn’t count prospects as getting something back…see the Evan Crawford comment and in previous argument, saying Mark DeRosa didn’t bring anything back of value.

  • Norm

    as far as where on the list of 2008 guys were you wrong, I’d say Murton, Gallagher, and Fontenot.
    But if you’re saying that the Cubs should have traded Theriot, I’d ask you when would you have traded him?

  • Jedi

    Huh? Because he was willing trade for Garza it’s ok that he’s unwilling to trade any more prospects?

    And your twisting my words again, I didn’t say prospects don’t count as something of value, as I said before if Crawford amounts to anything I’ll happily add him to the list. Jeremiah correctly points out that we are building for the future, so it would be nice if Marshall was traded for FUTURE MLB level talent. Just like it would’ve been nice if we’d dumped 2007 Rich Hill for someone who was currently contributing to the roster.

  • Norm

    So you win 85 games and 1st place in the NL Central and you expect them to trade a 27 year old lefty with a sub 4.00 ERA and most K’s on the team before the 2008 season?

  • Jedi

    If he can fetch a Carl Crawford, yep.

  • Jedi

    Plus, isn’t that essentially what the Rays just did by flipping Garza to us? You think they got the raw end of that?

    Interesting that you think Hill was both too good to trade and so worthless as to have no market.

  • Norm

    Yes, Rich Hill had value after the 2007 season. Before that? No. After that? No. But there was NO reason to trade him at that time. “If they could get Carl Crawford”?? C’mon. Rich Hill was not getting Carl Crawford. You said dump Hill for someone contributing today.
    There is no way, no how, you would’ve traded Rich Hill after 2007 for prospects that would be contributing today. Hindsight is the ONLY reason that can be said.

    The Rays are in a completely different situation as they need to keep payroll way down. Not to mention they had one of the best pitching prospects ready to step in.

  • Jedi

    We were more loaded with pitching in 2008 than the Rays are this year? Plus Garza’s salary is not that much – they traded him because he was at the peak of his value to them.

    The Sun Times quoted our own Jim Hendry as stating that Cedeno, Murton, and Hill had all been highly sought after – that was February 2006.

    Hill was talked about as part of a Barry Zito trade in January 2006.

    Multiple scenarios had Hill and some of the others on my list as part of an Orioles deal that would’ve landed the Cubs Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, or later Bedard and Brian Roberts. I can keep going if you like.

  • MJ

    Why does Micah Hoffpauir continue to get such high praise from Cub fans???
    OPS of .934, .727 and .426. Good god he sucked.
    And he was 28 when he made the majors…..

  • Funny name. Bonus points: currently plays for the funnily-named Ham Fighters.

  • Seymour Butts

    So I go to the Ham Fighters web sight, and guess what.. no pictures of ham.
    Guess you have to go somewhere else to see bacon strips on a legal pad. Probably Hendry’s desk no doubt.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    That the Ham Fighters don’t have a mascot dressed like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird is a continual disappointment.

  • Buddy

    Not sure what to make of Casey McGehee. Solid in 2009. Decent in 2010. A bag of crap in 2011. He’ll be 29 this year. Thoughts on Casey?

  • Eddie Von White

    Buddy: Think Geo Soto

  • Buddy
  • Buddy

    Every Cub fan I talk to regularly hated Micah Hoffpauir and couldn’t wait for him to move on.

  • Buddy

    One of my friends called Hoffpauir “a poor man’s Lee Stevens” which of course means “terrible.”

  • Doc Raker

    From the Cubs website “As for your question about Zambrano, I’m sure the Brewers and Pirates would love to have a starter like him but the Cubs don’t want to help their division rivals.” Ironically if Hendry were to trade Zambrano to a division rival he would NOT be helping them. Heck ya, trade him if someone really wants him.

  • Doc Raker

    Who is Lee Steven’s? A poor man’s Steve Balboni or a rich mans Hee Sop Choi?

  • Lee Stevens

    Not funny.

  • Steve Leavins

    Still not funny

  • Norm

    “Multiple scenarios had Hill and some of the others on my list as part of an Orioles deal that would’ve landed the Cubs Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, or later Bedard and Brian Roberts. I can keep going if you like.”

    Jedi, what are those types of trades? Cubs prospects for proven veterans. Just like Hendry has done NUMEROUS times in his tenure.

    Unless I’m reading wrong, you are arguing that Hendry doesn’t trade prospects at their peak value, he does. That’s how the Cubs got Ramirez, Lee, Pierre, Nomar, Harden, and, most recently, Garza.
    If you’re saying that he doesn’t trade veterans for prospects until it’s too late, that I can agree with, except in the case of DeRosa, he was traded at his peak value.

  • Jedi

    Norm, we got Ramirez because we were willing to take Lofton’s contract (and the Pirates weren’t going to sign Aramis long term). The Pirates didn’t get a prospect of note from us in this deal.

    Dave Littlefield, Pirates former GM: “You don’t like to trade a player like Ramirez who has come up through their system and performed like he did, but we need better talent and more financial flexibility,” Littlefield said. “We need a lot more players to help us get to where we want to be.”

    We got Harden when 1) the Brewers signed Sabathia, Hendry finally pulled the trigger, and 2) the A’s were sick of paying a lot of money (for them) to a guy who rotted on the DL. I never loved Harden, so perhaps I’m more than a bit biased against this deal.

    Nomar was traded when the Cubs gave up Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez was a prospect in 2004?

    I’ve said that I liked the Garza deal – my problem is that Hendry has made it clear that he’s not up for any more deals like that at this juncture.

    As for Pierre and Lee. Pierre sucked, the Cubs ate his contract for the Marlins, while giving up way too much – it’s what sometimes happens when a team trades for that “one piece” – and it didn’t work out for us at all. Lee was a good deal, although I think people romanticize this deal. It wasn’t as one-sided at the time, Lee’s career took a big step offensively when he came to the Cubs. Still, it was a really good deal for the Cubs.

  • Jedi

    And by the way Norm – you are still misreading the whole point of this. You said, “Unless I’m reading wrong, you are arguing that Hendry doesn’t trade prospects at their peak value, he does.”

    I’m arguing that Hendry didn’t trade the guys that I listed above who all were at some point part of our 2008 roster at the peak of their value. The correlation is that he is again proclaiming his reluctance to trade our current prospects, Barney, Marshall, etc., at the peak of their value.

  • Norm

    He shouldn’t trade ANY prospects right now.
    The only guy he should trade that has value is Marshall. You’re not getting anything for Darwin Barney.

  • @seymour…desk bacon is the best. It may be frowned upon in your line of work, but you should give it a shot. Chart bacon.

  • Steve

    What I don’t get is why hang on to these guys, and not give them a legit shot to play every day? Murton lead the Cubs in batting average in 2006, and Hendry gets Cliff Floyd to platoon? Giving a young player a chance to play only 2 or 3 times a week is the best way to derail any career they might have. This is what the Cubs excel in.

  • MJ

    Love the quote from David Littlefield. Wasn’t he one of the worst GMs?

  • Doc Raker

    Darren Stevens is available, imagine how bewitching that trade would be..

  • Buddy

    Which version of Darren would the Cubs be getting? And is Dr. Bombay included in the deal?

  • PackerCubBull

    In the 2007-08 off-season, we could have had Brian Roberts for some combination of Pie, Cedeno, and Hill. I would have pulled the trigger on it, because in 2008 they were going all in to win the World Series. When you’re going all-in, you do make trades without regards to the future. As for Harden, I was okay with the trade, expecting him to be just a piece for the 2008 team. But then Hendry decides to keep him, and then the next year Harden gets claimed on waivers, and Hendry refuses the trade because he feels he can get better value with the draft picks, but then refuses to give him arbitration because he felt Harden would accept it. How can you be that stupid? If you feel he’ll accept arbitration, why wouldn’t you trade him?

  • PackerCubBull

    blank post so i can get email followups