It sounded like fun, and it was even more fun when I went through the rosters for each season and found a Cubs player from each year for whom you’re likely going to say, “Who?” (Or, potentially, “Why?”)
2010: Chad Tracy
In 2005, Tracy hit .308/.359/.553 with 25 home runs for the Diamondbacks, a 3.1 bWAR season. The next year wasn’t quite as good, but .281/.343/.451 with 27 homers and 1.9 bWAR was still solid.
Sure, it was four years later, but Jim Hendry thought he might be a decent bench player.
Nope. Tracy played in just 28 games for the Cubs, started just eight of them and hit .250/.327/.295 with no home runs in 44 at-bats. Then he began this odyssey:
Yeah, I didn’t remember that either.
2011: Chris Carpenter
Nope. Not the guy who posted 144 wins in 350 games for the Blue Jays and Cardinals from 1997-2012. This Chris Carpenter was the Cubs’ third-round pick in 2008. He went to Kent State — the same school that produced Steve Stone.
He wasn’t even close to what Stone became, either. He pitched in 10 games in relief for the last Cubs team before Theo Epstein took over, and wound up (along with Aaron Kurcz) being sent to the Red Sox in February 2012 as compensation for signing Theo. (Teams can’t actually make trades like this; to make it a legal deal, the Cubs got Jair Bogaerts — Xander’s twin brother — in return. They released Bogaerts three months later.)
Carpenter pitched in eight games for the Red Sox and Kurcz never made the big leagues, though he was still pitching in Double-A for the Brewers in 2019. Worth it in exchange for Theo, I’d say.
2012: Alex Hinshaw
Theo began rebuilding the Cubs and the ‘12 version set the franchise record for most players used in a season, 53, breaking the record of 49 set in 1966.
One of those players was Hinshaw, a lefthanded reliever. Hinshaw had a decent year for the Giants in 2008, not so much in 2009. He spent the next two years in the minor leagues, was let go as a minor-league free agent, signed with the Padres and then was claimed on waivers by the Cubs August 19, 2012.
He faced one batter and recorded one out August 25, getting Carlos Gonzalez (who was still good then) to ground out.
There’s a whole bunch of guys in that boxscore who could have qualified for this spot, but I chose Hinshaw. He allowed a walk, a single and three straight home runs (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart). It was his last MLB appearance. The Cubs, who had trailed 6-4 entering that ninth inning, lost 15-4.
Those were dark times.
2013: Thomas Neal
Neal was a Baseball America Top-100 prospect (95th) before the 2010 season. By 2012 the Giants had soured on him and traded him to the Indians, who released him. He signed with the Yankees in early 2013, but the Cubs claimed him on waivers August 5.
He played in two games as a Cub, pinch-hitting and flying out to end the game August 6, and then starting the game August 7. He hurt his shoulder after throwing a ball in from left field in Philadelphia that night:
He never played for the Cubs again, though he was still bouncing around indy ball as recently as 2016.
2014: Jose Veras
Veras had a pretty good year split between Houston and Detroit in 2013: 21 saves, 3.02 ERA, 1.069 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR, a few outings in the postseason for the Tigers. He seemed a reasonable gamble on a free-agent deal worth $3.85 million.
Whoops, no. In his first 10 games with the Cubs: 8⅓ innings, 10 hits, 11 walks (that’s a 2.520 WHIP if you’re keeping track), 12.96 ERA, two blown saves. That included a DL stint.
The Cubs released him June 10, and the Astros re-signed him and he simply picked up where he left off the previous season, posting a 3.03 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in 34 outings. Damndest thing I ever saw.
2015: Donn Roach
The Cubs needed a fill-in starter June 27 at St. Louis for reasons that appear lost to the mists of time.
Roach had put together 15 reasonable starts at Triple-A Iowa (2.63 ERA, 1.112 WHIP), so he was called up to start this game.
He threw three shutout innings, and then let five of the first six batters he faced in the fourth reach base. Four of them scored, two after he had left the game in favor of Travis Wood.
Roach is one week younger than Kyle Hendricks.
2016: Ryan Kalish
You probably thought you were going to see the name “Brian Matusz” for the World Series championship season, but that would have been too easy.
Like Neal, Kalish was once a Top 100 prospect (by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus), but by the time he got to the Cubs, injuries had ruined his future. He had played some for the team in 2014, got injured again and missed the entire 2015 season, then was called up from Triple-A Iowa in early May 2016. He played in just seven games for the 2016 Cubs and had just two hits in seven at-bats.
That was Kalish’s last major-league hit. Hey, he got a World Series ring out of it.
2017: Seth Frankoff
Kyle Hendricks had hit the disabled list with tendinitis in his right hand and Mike Montgomery made a few starts in his place.
To replace Hendricks on the active roster, Frankoff was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. He entered the game on June 9, 2017 to begin the fifth inning, relieving Montgomery. The first batter he faced was former Cub Chris Rusin, the Rockies pitcher. Rusin singled. Charlie Blackmon followed with a two-run homer. Frankoff didn’t allow any further runs, but two days later he was sent back to Iowa and Felix Pena was recalled.
That was Frankoff’s only MLB game. He’s spent the last two years pitching in Korea. He did get this memory out of that game against the Rockies:
Baseball is funny when you run into the guy you gave up your first big league home run to at dinner. Nice to meet you tonight @Chuck_Nazty.— Seth Frankoff (@Frankoff43) June 10, 2017
2018: Efren Navarro
Most every spring, the Cubs bring in a veteran minor leaguer who can play some first base, to give Anthony Rizzo a break during spring games. The vet then is either let go at the end of camp, or winds up at Iowa.
In 2018, Navarro was that guy. He might have played the entire year at Iowa if Rizzo hadn’t suffered a minor back injury in April. Navarro was recalled and spent a week on the active roster. He didn’t start any games at first base and played there just twice in his four games as a Cub. He went 1-for-6. The hit was a pinch single in this 8-5 loss to the Pirates. The Cubs released him at his request in June 2018 and he played the rest of 2018 and all of 2019 in NPB for the Hanshin Tigers.
2019: Carlos Gonzalez
Years from now, you’ll be able to fool people who will say, “That guy played for the Cubs?” Yep, 15 games’ worth, including 14 games started. CarGo had played poorly for the Indians, but the Cubs thought perhaps he could recover his Rockies hitting form. He didn’t — for the Cubs he hit .175/.306/.300 (7-for-40) with one home run.
He did get Cubs fans on his side with this nice sliding catch in right field [VIDEO] in his very first game in a Cubs uniform.
The Cubs released CarGo on July 2 and he was not picked up by anyone else.
You might have a different favorite random player from the last 10 years. Let us know in the comments.