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Cubs historical trade analysis: The time the team added Porfirio Altimirano... and two outfielders

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The outfielders turned out to be a little more important.

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Today, I move my retro trades look closer to the present day. The Cubs were not considered a good team heading into spring training of 1984. Then, a string of trades changed that. This article looks at one of them.


March 26, 1984

April Fools Day isn't today, yet? Is it?

My headline buries the lede, and runs on the name of new Cubs reliever Porfirio Altimirano. He's the guy you get in a waiver claim. Maybe he will have some value. Probably not, though. It was a bit important the Cubs added a reliever to the bullpen as Bill Campbell has been sent to Philadelphia.

Campbell is the same middle velocity reliever that teams need: 88 or 89, but with movement and sink. The Cubs bullpen got worse today, but they have quality outfield depth for the first time since before MTV was added to your cable package.

Gary Matthews is a bad defensive left fielder. As always. I don't know if the term resonates with you, but he is a "professional hitter." Put him in left field, and he'll create more runs than he gives away.

Matthews and Altimirano for Campbell and catcher/first base prospect Mike Diaz would have been a proper swap. That the Cubs added center fielder Bob Dernier is the heist. Not that Dernier is a feared hitter. He isn't. He's very borderline. However, with Matthews, Leon Durham, Mel Hall, and possibly uber-prospect Joe Carter gallivanting around in the outfield, a center fielder with range seems advisable. Dernier's arm is more cap gun than cannon, but if he gets on base some, the Cubs may be Phillies West with Dernier, Matthews and Ryne Sandberg playing regularly.

*****

This trade really didn't work for the Phillies. Campbell was what he was. A bit better than average. He left after one slightly-over-ordinary season. The Phillies’ four-man shuffle of Garry Maddox, Glenn Wilson, Sixto Lezcano, and Von Hayes was crumpled with Maddox missing about half the season. Lezcano and Hayes hit well enough, but Wilson underperformed at the plate. The Phillies were a .500 team, and the Cubs had depth to parlay.

It's been an odd occurrence for the Cubs to have a center fielder who hit above average and fielded the same. Rick Monday. Kenny Lofton. Dexter Fowler. And Dernier, for a stretch. It was amusing how often Dernier or Sandberg would be on third base with less than two outs, and Matthews would hit an RBI two-hopper to shortstop. No thoughts of over-swinging for a glamour-homer. A simple bouncer, and a run.

Adding Matthews and Dernier allowed the Cubs to deal with trades that summer from a position of strength. Campbell would have helped a Lee Smith-and-little-else bullpen, but one year of one non-elite reliever for two starting outfielders is a legendary haul. This is an undervalued swap in team history. Toss in that Matthews might have taught Ryne Sandberg a thing or two about patience, and this might be a top 20 trade all-time for the franchise.

Even though October misfired out west.