Trivia Question: Which drafted Cubs player, through a series of trades, eventually landed the Cubs, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg?
The Cubs have had 10 general managers since 1965 starting with John Holland and ending with our current leader of operations, Jim Hendry. As you'll see, their focus on the draft and ability to evaluate, develop and exchange those drafted players into major league parts will help us evaluate their mark on this Cubs franchise. This wouldn't be one of my pieces if we didn't have a list:
GMís since 1965:
John Holland 1957-1975
E.R. Saltwell 1976
Bob Kennedy 1977 to May 1981
Herman Franks May 1981 to October 1981
Dallas Green October 1981 to October 1987
Jim Frey Novemebr 1987 to October 1991
Larry Himes November 1991 to October 1994
Ed Lynch October 1994 to July 200
Andy McPhail July 2000 to July 2002
Jim Hendry July 2002 to the Present
Of course general managers rely on many others when draft day comes including scouts and the minor league director, but since it's their responsibility to hire them in the first place, I ultimately hold them responsible. So how did our general managers use the farm system and in particularly the draft to ultimately make the big league club better?
Probably one of the first big trades involving drafted Cubs players occurred in 1969. The Cubs drafted knuckleballer Joe Niekro in the third round of the secondary phase of the 1966 June draft. When Niekro first came up, he did not primarily use his knuckleball and truly enjoyed only one moderately successful season with the Cubs in 1967. The Cubs gave up on him in 1969, shipping him, Gary Ross (a 1967 phase 4 first round pick), and Frankie Libran to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Dick Selma. Selma was a rather respectable player for the Mets before being selected by the Padres in the 1968 expansion draft. His time with the Cubbies was short as he was traded with Oscar Gamble (1968, 16th round pick) to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Johnny Callison. Callison earned 22 win shares as a Cubbie in 2 seasons before he was shipped to the New York Yankees for pitcher Jack Aker. Aker earned about 13 win shares in two seasons as a Cub before signing with the Atlanta Braves in 1974, thus ending the trail of players. So if we compare the players lost and gained, we get the following, thanks to the beauty of Win Shares.
|PLAYERS GIVEN UP
||WS AFTER LEAVING CUBS
||WS AS CUB
So you can see that went well. I'm sure there was some good reasoning behind all the trades, but it's also pretty apparent that the Cubs gave away some good talent without much in return. GM John Holland had a few more tricks up his sleeve, including trades of SS Roger Metzger (80 career win shares) to the Astros for infielder Hector Torres (1 Cub Win Share). Torres then got traded to the Montreal Expos with first basemen Hal Breeden for pitcher Dan McGinn (0 Cubs Win Shares). As AZ Phil pointed out in the comments, the deal though was considered payback for a previous deal between the Cubs and Astros where Joe Pepitone was sent to the Cubs for cash considerations.
It wasn't all bad for Holland and I really shouldn't pick on him as he actually did make some rather ingenious moves as well, including selecting and then trading away the answer to the trivia question. Before the draft was instituted he signed Ron Santo as an amateur free agent and during his tenure he selected players like, Dennis Lamp, Rick Reuschel, Mike Krukow, Donnie Moore, Ray Burris and I believe Lee Smith (not exactly sure when his tenure ended but I believe he made it through the 1975 season meaning he was responsible for that draft). He also made an exceptional trade in 1971 of shipping off Brock Davis, Jim Colborn and Earl Stephenson (3rd round, 1967 draft) to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Jose Cardenal (98 Cubs Win Shares).
I'm going to skip over a few years and now pick on a truly awful general manager, Jim Frey. His tenure lasted 4 years from Oct. 1987 to Oct. 1991, where the team did win one division title and had a .501 winning percentage during that time. His drafts though were some of the worst in Cubs history, 3 of them landing in the top 5 in futility. I discussed the 1990 draft yesterday, but he was also responsible for the 1988 draft (the Ty Griffin year), where Kevin Roberson was the only player to ever gain a Cubbie win share, actually he managed 3 in his brief career. In 1989, the Cubs selected Earl Cunningham with the first pick and the only major league players to ever contribute were Gary Scott (1 Cubbie Win Share) and Dave Swartzbaugh (1 Cubbie Win Share). He did redeem himself in 1991, selecting Doug Glanville, Terry Adams, Ozzie Timmons, Steve Trachsel and Robin Jennings in that draft.
As I mentioned, drafting players and then trading them away for more established talent can be just as valuable. So maybe Frey was adept at talking other GM's into taking the Cubs prized prospects and getting some true superstars. Here's a rundown of the trades in the Jim Frey era involving drafted Cubs players.
Traded Lee Smith(2nd round/1975) to the Boston Red Sox for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi
Traded Dave Martinez(3rd round/1983) to the Montreal Expos for Mitch Webster
Traded Rafael Palmeiro(1st round/1985), Jamie Moyer(6th round/1984), Drew Hall(1st round/1984) to the Texas Rangers for Mitch Williams, Paul Kilgus, Steve Wilson, Curtis Wilkerson and 2 minor leaguers
Traded Kelly Mann(20th round/1985) and Pat Gomez(4th round/1986) to the Atlanta Braves for Paul Assenmacher
Traded Calvin Schiraldi, Darrin Jackson(2nd round/1981), and Phil Stephenson to the San Diego Padres for Marvell Wynne and Luis Salazar
Traded Greg Smith(2nd round/1985) to the L.A. Dodgers and received Jose Vizcaino
There are a few trades I'm missing but you get the point. I could go through and accumulate the win shares differentials for each trade but why bother. Palmeiro and Moyer went on to have very good major league careers. Lee Smith is the career saves leader and Dave Martinez had a respectable career as well. While some of the players we received helped us win the 1989 division title, talk about mortgaging the future for a quick fix. No, I think Jim Frey won in spite of himself and most of the teams success through those years can be attributed to his predecessor Dallas Green, a man who appreciated the draft and it's value to the big league club.
Dallas Green took over as Cubs general manager in October of 1981 for a team that had just finished 38-65 in the strike shortened season. The major league teams during his tenure only managed a .478 winning percentage, but 1984 was one of the most magical years in Cubs history. Green also, because of the draft, set up the team for future success, most of which Frey screwed up.
Here are the trades during the Green era involving drafted Cubs players
Traded Mike Krukow(8th round/1973) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Keith Moreland, Dan Larson and Dickie Noles
Traded Jim Tracy(4th round/1977) to the Houston Astros for Gary Woods
Traded Vance Lovelace(1st round/1981) to the LA Dodgers for Ron Cey
Traded Scott Fletcher(1st round/1979), Pat Tabler, Randy Martz(1st round/1977) and Dick Tidrow to the Chicago White Sox for Steve Trout and Warren Brusstar
Traded Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts(9th round/1980) and Fritzie Connally to the San Diego Padres in part of a 3 team trade where they received Scott Sanderson from the Montreal Expos
Traded Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz(30th round/1978) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Gary Matthews, Bob Dernier and Porfi Altamirano
Traded Mel Hall(2nd round/1978), Joe Carter(1st round/1981) and Don Schulze(1st round/1980) to the Cleveland Indians for Rick Sutcliffe, George Frazier and Ron Hassey
Traded Billy Hatcher(6th round/1981) and Steve Engel to the Houston Astros for Jerry Mumphrey
Players drafted under the Dallas Green era:
So other then Joe Carter, Green gave up nothing remarkable in talent and even with Carter, he did get a Cy Young winner in return. That's good trading in my opinion. Not only that, but his drafts consisted of a Hall of Famer, a borderline Hall of Famer, a Rookie of the Year, and a couple of All-Stars. I get a sense that he knew what he was doing. Not only did he compile a good portion of the 1984 team, he was largely responsible for the 1989 team as well. Green's biggest trade and the one that will forever go down in Cubs folklore is of course sending SS Ivan DeJesus to the Philadelphia Phillies for SS Larry Bowa and throw-in 3B Ryne Sandberg. As I mentioned, Rick Monday had something to do with all this, so it's time to play six degrees of separation.
Here's how it works...In 1977, Ivan DeJesus was traded to the Cubs with Bill Buckner and a minor leaguer from the LA Dodgers for the first player ever selected in the amateur draft, Rick Monday and pitcher Mike Garman. How did we get Rick Monday? Well that would be the answer to our trivia question. We traded the 4th round pick from the 1965 draft, pitcher Ken Holtzman, to the Oakland A's in November of 1971 and received the patriot in return. So a few trades, a bit of convincing and in the end, a respectable pitcher landed us a Hall of Fame second basemen.
And the good news for Cubs fans now is that Jim Hendry is doing much of the same, drafting well and using that talent to make the big league club even better. He's been with the Cubs in some capacity since 1994 and most of those years were as scouting director. He's partially responsible for drafting the likes of Mark Prior, Corey Patterson, Kerry Wood, Dontrelle Willis, Jon Leicester, Jason Dubois and a bunch of other talented youngsters. He's made some shrewd trades giving up, only as much as he had to, and receiving quality major leaguers who have made a tremendous impact on the club. The Ramirez/Lofton deal with the Pirates for Bobby Hill, Matt Bruback and Jose Hernandez was an absolute steal for the Cubs and even the Garciaparra trade, despite his injuries could turn out for the better as Matt Murton is tearing it up in the minors.
And finally my list for the 5 worst Cubs trades ever involving drafted players:
1) Rafael Palmeiro(1st round/1985), Jamie Moyer(6th round/1984), Drew Hall(1st round/1984) to the Texas Rangers for Mitch Williams, Steve Wilson, Paul Kilgus, Curtis Wilkerson and 2 minor leauguers
2) Lee Smith(2nd round/1975) for Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper
4) Oscar Gamble(16th round/1968), Dick Selma for Johnny Callison
4) Joe Niekro(3rd round/1966), Gary Ross(1st round/1967), Frankie Libran for Dick Selma
5th) Jon Garland(1st round/1997) for Matt Karchner
I don't think I have to explain my reasons for disliking any of those trades. I know, hindsight is 20/20 and all and the context of some of those trades elude me, but in the end, the Cubs traded away good talent for little or no talent. I'm not a big fan of Garland and think he's living on borrowed time this year, but it will always be a stupid trade cause you don't trade a 19 year old first round pick for a middle reliever...EVER! Many of you probably want to put the Matt Clement/Antonio Alfonseca trade with the Marlins that cost us Dontrelle Willis, but I thought it was a good trade then and I think it's still a good trade. The Cubs are just paying the price of success. Willis was an eight round pick in the 2000 draft and enjoyed two moderately successful seasons in the Cubs minor league system before the trade. His career contribution to whatever teams he ends up playing for, will far outweigh that of Clement's and Alfonseca's to the Cubs. Clement though was a very useful pitcher while with the Cubs and the only regret the Cubs should have is not being able to turn him into more players at last year's trade deadline. That of course though would have been impossible, considering we were still fighting for a playoff spot and our starting staff was battling a number of injuries. The Cubs were forced to cut ties with him this off-season, mostly for financial reasons and the team's success ultimately proved to be it's downfall in that particular situation. Like the Joe Carter for Sutcliffe deal, you occasionally have to give up good players to get good players and I think the Clement deal was just another example.
Next I'll end my look back at the baseball draft by looking at the Woulda', Shoulda', Coulda' Been Cubs.