Jim Hendry took over as the General Manager of the Cubs on July 5th, 2002. The team was awful that year, finishing 67-95. However, the team’s Pythagorean record of 76-86 indicated better things to come. Let’s take a look at Hendry’s deals over the years, and try to determine his tendencies and favorite trading partners. He’s been quite active, making 48 trades by my count.
One trend I noticed is that Hendry hasn’t gotten much in return when trying to dump veterans from out-of-contention clubs. He failed to trade Fred McGriff in ’02, opting to send off Darren Lewis for Chad Hermansen at the July deadline. That year, Hendry preferred to dump off his vets in August, ditching Tom Gordon, Jeff Fassero, and Bill Mueller for nothing of consequence. (He later dumped many vets like Matt Lawton, Greg Maddux, Todd Hollandsworth, Phil Nevin, Scott Williamson, Todd Walker, and Neifi Perez without receiving useful players.)
Hendry’s first offseason was a success. He revamped his catching corps by getting Damian Miller and Paul Bako, and somehow managed to send off Todd Hundley for two helpful players in Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. The Cubs netted about six wins in ’03 with the acquisitions. Hermansen was in that deal so maybe we can say Hendry acquired one useful player in a salary dump trade.
You’ll notice that much of the core of the current Cubs team came from Hendry’s generally fine trading skills. He fleeced Dave Littefield for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton in July of ’03, and went back to grab Randall Simon in August. Ramirez was only 25 at the time of the deal and had hit 34 HR as a 23 year-old. Unbelievable that Bobby Hill could get this done.
Hendry’s finest trade came in the winter of ’03, when he acquired Derrek Lee for Hee Seop Choi during the Marlins’ fire sale. Choi never panned out, while Lee blossomed into a star. Marlins GM Larry Beinfest exacted his revenge on Hendry two years later in the Juan Pierre deal – one of Hendry’s few trade missteps. Hendry surrendered useful young pitchers Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, and Renyel Pinto for Pierre. A month after the Lee trade Hendry acquired Michael Barrett from Billy Beane for Damian Miller - another win.
The Cubs didn’t give up anything too useful in their blockbuster trade of the summer of ’04, acquiring Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton. Even though Nomar didn’t help the Cubs, they came out ahead with Murton. Hendry has quietly gotten the better of Billy Beane and Theo Epstein.
The Sammy Sosa trade in February of ’05 didn’t bring the Cubs anything useful; Jerry Hairston Jr. never panned out. But that was a salary dump, and Hendry did the best he could with a player he simply had to trade away. A year later the Cubs couldn’t stand another minute with Corey Patterson, and he became an Oriole too. That one made Hendry look foolish. A third trade of the same variety was made in May of ’05, when Hendry sent the much-maligned LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants for Jerome Williams and David Aardsma. That was his only "forced" type trade that resulted in useful players.
Hendry waited a while to find a replacement for the injured Lee in ’06, eventually settling on a league average Phil Nevin from Texas. The Cubs soon became sellers that year, and the best Hendry could do for Greg Maddux was Cesar Izturis. He’s generally much better as a buyer than a seller, except for the Pierre deal.
Hendry’s favorite trading partners are Theo Epstein and Dave Littlefield; he’s made four deals with each. He also enjoys dealing with the Orioles’ braintrust, Larry Beinfest, Dave Dombrowski, Doug Melvin, and Dan O’Dowd. His one and only crosstown trade came this winter with the Neal Cotts-David Aardsma deal; that one’s too early to call. Click here to Download chicago_cubs_hendry.xls – Hendry’s entire trading record in a spreadsheet.
While Hendry’s free agency record is questionable, he comes out as a strong trader upon review. Cubs fans should have confidence that he’ll add some helpful players in July and August if the team is in the race.