Next in a series of retro pieces that examine Cubs trades based on how they looked at the time and how they looked later.
May 25, 1984
The Cubs have acquired pitcher Dennis Eckersley and infielder Mike Brumley for first baseman Bill Buckner. Buckner is largely not a first baseman anymore, as Leon Durham is considered the first baseman of the Cubs’ future. With the Cubs 1984 rotation shaky at best (Dick Ruthven, Chuck Rainey, Steve Trout, and Scott Sanderson, with Rick Reuschel as the emergency fifth guy), Eckersley quickly moves to top of the stack. For the Cubs to outlast the Phillies, Mets, and Cardinals, an addition was likely needed.
Eckersley was useful in the 1970s for Cleveland, tossing a no-hitter in May 1977. He's been a bit up-and-down, but was a 4 WAR pitcher last season. He's been below replacement level thus far in 1984. If Eckersley stabilizes the rotation, this is a win. Buckner would be most helpful if the designated hitter were extended to the National League, but nobody's talking about it.
This trade helped both sides. Eckersley did help the Cubs win the division in 1984, and Buckner started for the Red Sox for two-plus seasons. By getting Eck out of the equation, Boston had room to let Roger Clemens and Oil Can Boyd develop. One worked better than the other, but both were worthy of a longer-term look.
Modern replay review would have solved that 30-minute argument in about two minutes.
Eckersley's Game 3 NLCS start seems the only one of the five games not on YouTube.
Eckersley's departure from the Cubs for three incidental prospects is hotly disputed. I won't even try to add to the controversy. As a final comment, this trade was possible because of the trade in March 1984. Adding quality depth allows leeway in future moves. That's usually a good thing. The trade maximizes when a slumping player is added, just before his cold-streak ends. Eckersley was over 10 bWAR in his three Cubs seasons. Buckner was a pinch-hitter.
Nothing much happened with the middle-infielder Brumley. The biggest nugget I can provide there is that if a team is awash in infield depth now, an extra piece can be a reliever tossing 95-plus, instead of a version of Mike Freeman. Getting a rotation starter for a bench bat? Almost eleven times out of ten.