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.

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