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Two 1905 trades that helped the Cubs become pennant winners

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The Cubs got two key pieces of their great 1906-10 teams through shrewd trades at the end of 1905.

Harry Steinfeldt at West Side Grounds in 1908
Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Normally, this series will examine trades one at a time. However, in the runup to the 1906 campaign, the Cubs made two colossal trades that deserve to be looked at together. I trust the logic will be apparent. These two linked trades put the Cubs in position to be the National League's top squad for five years.

October 24, 1905

Well, that's interesting. The Cubs just traded a very experienced pitcher in Jake Weimer to the Cincinnati Reds. But, seriously, that isn't the interesting part.

Weimer brings two very intriguing pieces back to Chicago. Or, possibly two. Third baseman Harry Steinfeldt upgrades the Cubs infield immediately. Steinfeldt is better with the bat and glove than incumbent third sacker Doc Casey, who posted a .611 OPS last season at West Side Grounds. Steinfeldt has battled injuries the last three seasons, but had a .696 OPS last season over 114 games.

The other name in the trade is the enigmatic Jimmy Sebring, who famously hit the first homer in "World Series" history. Injuries and motivational issues have kept Sebring out of the National League recently. As well as his suspension.

Losing the lefty starter Weimer could be a crushing blow to the Cubs pitching. Atop the rotation are Three-Finger Brown (he has been more solid than sensational since his arrival from St. Louis) and Ed Reulbach. Unless Buttons Briggs, Bob Wicker, or Carl Lundgren take a major step forward, pitching depth could be a concern. Of course, Casey could be peddled off for a pitcher as well.

Fascinating trade. If Sebring or Steinfeldt return to form, this could be a huge assist. If another pitcher shows up.

December 15, 1905

The other rumored trade has been made public. The Cubs seem to have dealt quantity for quality.

In late October, the Cubs traded for Harry Steinfeldt, giving them two starting caliber players at the hot corner. Doc Casey, who has been a three year starter since defecting from Detroit, goes to Brooklyn along with pitcher Buttons Briggs and former Rule 5 Draft signing outfielder Billy Maloney, and reserve outfielder Jack McCarthy for a real left fielder in Jimmy Sheckard.

Sheckard has twice led the league in stolen bases, and had an OPS+ last season of 140. For those interested, Sheckard is considered a very good bunt option. Last season, as you might recall, Sheckard was a 4.0 WAR player per Baseball Reference.

Compared to last season, the Cubs have upgraded left field and third base. They have traded away pitching assets, mostly, along with reserves. Who will be the Cubs third, fourth, and "relief" pitchers? Your guess is as good as mine, but the offense appears potent.

*****

Sheckard is among the Cubs all-time post season statistical leaders here and there. He was all over the board before 2016. He qualifies as one of those players who words and stats didn't really quantify very well. Sort of like an old-time Dexter Fowler.

The 1906 Cubs were better than advertised. They scored 4.5 runs per game when second-best was 4.1. They surrendered 2.5, while the closest was 3.1. They won the pennant by 20 games.

Brown started showing the form that eventually got him to the Hall of Fame. Ed Reulbach was the third banana. Jack Pfiester, added from a minor-league squad in August 1905, tossed 250 innings, winning 20 games, and laying to waste concerns of losing Weimer to Cincinnati.

The team was loaded. Despite losing four games to two to "The Hitless Wonder" White Sox, the numbers from 1906 abide. 116-36. For the two championships in a row to come, the Cubs still had a "minor" in-season tweak to make.

Sebring never played for the Cubs, and goes down as one of the leagues better "what if" renegades. He didn't especially want to "draw inside the lines," and he tended to get hurt.

Steinfeldt was solid at third during the heyday, and might have been as useful as Tinker, Evers, or Chance. Unlike so many Chicago sides through the years, this one stayed together and won.

Pitching was a key. New guys would arrive and improve. Team stalwarts would get traded away just to wither and fade. The plays that should be made, were. The offense was much better than average. Replicating the success with developing replacements didn't happen.