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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1979

Some more misfires happened this year in the trade market.

Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cubs had contended for much of 1977 and 1978 and hoped to do so again in 1979.

To make that happen, they thought, they’d get some players who had some postseason experience. The Phillies had won the N.L. East the previous two years so...

February 23: Acquired Ted Sizemore, Jerry Martin, Barry Foote and Derek Botelho from the Phllies for Manny Trillo, Greg Gross and Dave Rader

Well, this was a mistake. Sizemore, Martin and Foote all had playoff experience, But Sizemore was 34 and had a terrible year in ‘78 (.523 OPS, which was bad even at the time). Foote had some good years in Montreal in the early ‘70s and did have a pretty good year for the Cubs in ‘79 (.254/.316/.427, 16 home runs) and Martin hit 42 home runs in two years as a Cub.

But overall, this was a much better deal for the Phillies. As I noted in an earlier installment, Gross became a really good backup outfielder in Philadelphia for over a decade, one of the best pinch-hitters in MLB history. Trillo won three Gold Gloves and made two All-Star teams in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Sizemore didn’t even finish the year with the Cubs. From his SABR biography:

Sizemore’s time in Chicago was short, as a result of an argument he had with Cubs manager Herman Franks in early August, after a game in Montreal. As Sizemore recalls it, the Cubs had just lost their sixth in a row, and it was also the day that New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. Some of the Cubs, including Sizemore, had known him, and everyone was in a bad mood. The players wanted to toast Munson at dinner, but the team put a strict limit on how many bottles of wine were allocated to each table. Sizemore was one of three players who called the management “cheap” and made some rude remarks on the team bus. He later tried to apologize, but Franks refused to accept it, telling reporters that Sizemore was “a whiner and a complainer,” and accusing him of having a bad attitude. He wanted Sizemore gone.

Two weeks after all that Sizemore was traded. I’ll cover that below.

May 3: Acquired Doug Capilla from the Reds for a PTBNL

Capilla was actually a decent LH reliever for the Cubs in 1979 and 1980, then was shipped away in one of Dallas Green’s first deals as Cubs GM. I’ll cover that later.

The Cubs sent a minor leaguer named Mark Gilbert to the Reds as the PTBNL after the season ended. Gilbert never played in the majors. This wa a good trade.

May 23: Acquired Dick Tidrow from the Yankees for Ray Burris

This was a very good deal for the Cubs. Tidrow had three really good years and one mediocre one for the Cubs before he was sent to the White Sox. More on Tidrow’s Cubs career in this obit I wrote about him when he died in 2021.

Burris never fulfilled his promise with the Cubs and did nothing for the Yankees, who traded him to the Mets. He wound up having one good year after that, for the A’s in 1984.

June 26: Traded Bobby Murcer to the Yankees for minor leaguer Paul Semall

Murcer’s time with the Cubs was controversial, especially after he just stopped hitting all of a sudden in August 1977. He had a mediocre year in 1978, hitting just nine home runs in 146 games, and was off to a middling start in ‘79 before the trade.

Mostly, this was salary relief for the Cubs, as the Yankees took on two and a half years worth of Murcer’s contract, a fairly large sum at the time (about $700,000).

Semall never pitched in the majors. He spent three years in the Cubs system, then finished his career in the Rangers and Pirates organizations.

August 17: Acquired Mike O’Berry from the Red Sox for Ted Sizemore

As noted above, this was basically “dump Sizemore for anything.” Sizemore played 26 games for Boston in 1979 and nine more in 1980, then was released.

O’Berry caught 19 games for the Cubs in 1980 and then was traded in a deal that actualy brought the Cubs something useful. I’ll cover that in the next installment.

October 17: Acquired Mike Tyson from the Cardinals for Donnie Moore

No, not that Mike Tyson, the boxer. This guy was the Cardinals more or less regular second baseman from 1973-79 and, as with many middle infielders in that era, he was good-field, no-hit.

Tyson didn’t hit much for the Cubs, either, batting .226/.267/.323 in 173 games in 1980 and 1981.

Moore pitched nine more big league seasons for the Cardinals, Brewers, Braves and Angels. His giving up a key home run in the 1986 ALCS was said to have sent him into a depression that resulted in him taking his own life in 1989, although this article says the truth is “even darker.”

The Tidrow deal was good and Capilla was decent for a bit, but the rest of these were pretty much nothing. C- for the 1979 deals.


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