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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1981

This was a year of great change for the Chicago Cubs.

Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

This season was, as you know, interrupted by a strike that wiped out about a third of the games. I have no doubt that had the season been played to its completion, the Cubs would have set a franchise record for losses. They lost 98 games in 1980 and did not improve over the winter.

It didn’t happen, and by the end of the year the team had new ownership in Tribune Co. and a new general manager in Dallas Green, and Green wasted no time in making trades to try to improve the team.

But first, a couple of “last gasp” deals from Bob Kennedy and the Wrigley ownership. Kennedy resigned as GM May 22; Herman Franks became the Cubs’ interim GM on that date, and served until Green was hired October 15, 1981. So, some of this calendar year’s trades were made by Kennedy, some by Franks, some by Green.

February 28: Acquired Steve Henderson from the Mets for Dave Kingman

Kingman had worn out his welcome in Chicago. He had one big year, his 48-homer season in 1979, but the other two were marred by injury.

Henderson’s biggest claim to fame was that he had been one of the four players the Reds had sent to the Mets for Tom Seaver in 1977. Henderson didn’t do much in Chicago, two seasons’ worth of 0.8 bWAR baseball, then traded in a deal we’ll cover later in this series.

Kingman had been successful with the Mets previously and was again; he led the N.L. with 37 home runs in 1982 and overall after he left the Cubs produced 2.0 bWAR. Kingman’s 154 home runs as a Met rank sixth in Mets franchise history.

March 28: Acquired Ken Kravec from the White Sox for Dennis Lamp

Well, this was dumb.

Lamp had been a decent pitcher for four years as a Cub, though his ERA in 1980 was unsightly (5.21). Kravec, a similar story with the Sox: decent for four years, a high ERA in 1980 (6.94). Change of scenery? Better off with a lefthander (Kravec)?

Nope. Lamp had three good years with the White Sox and pitched in 12 more seasons overall, including in the postseason with the Sox (1983), Blue Jays (1985) and Pirates (1990), a total of 8.2 bWAR after leaving the Cubs.

Kravec posted a 5.31 ERA in 37 games with the Cubs in 1981 and 1982 and was done after that, -1.6 bWAR. He did become a respected scout after retiring, working for the Royals, Marlins, Rays and Cubs.

Lamp wound up working at the seafood counter in a supermarket in Newport Beach, California. No, I am not making that up.

April 27: Acquired Tom Filer from the Yankees for Barry Foote

Foote had one good year (1979) for the Cubs and one bad one (1980) and was 0-for-22 with the Cubs in ‘81 when they traded him. That’s the most at-bats for any non-pitcher Cub without a hit in a single season in franchise history.

Foote wasn’t very good for the Yankees, either, and retired after 1982.

Filer made eight starts for the Cubs in ‘82 with a 5.53 ERA, spent two years in the Cubs system and left as a free agent after 1984. He had a couple of decent years with Toronto (1985) and Milwaukee (1989) and was still pitching in 1992 with the Mets.

Neither team in this deal got much of anything.

June 12: Acquired Doug Bird and Mike Griffin from the Yankees for Rick Reuschel

This was strictly about money in one of the last gasps of the Wrigley ownership. The Cubs also got $400,000 in cash, a large sum in those days. Reuschel pitched in the ‘81 World Series for the Yankees and, of course, resurrected his career with the Pirates and Giants after Green refused to keep him after re-signing him in 1983 and Reuschel not having a great year in 1984.

Bird pitched two years for the Cubs and was sent away in another deal we’ll cover later.

Griffin had a 4.50 ERA in 16 games (nine starts) for the Cubs and was also traded away.

Reuschel posted 20.0 bWAR after the deal and is a borderline Hall of Famer. The Cubs got 1.2 bWAR from Bird and Griffin. This was not a good trade.

Also, this trade was made just under the wire before the strike was called that day.

August 15: Received a PTBNL from the White Sox for Lynn McGlothen

McGlothen’s performance had tailed off after a good start with the Cubs. He made just 11 relief appearances for the Sox and was released by them just before the 1982 season began.

The PTNBL wasn’t sent until March 1982. Outfielder Bob Molinaro was acquired. Molinaro had been a decent spare-part outfielder for the Sox in 1979 and 1980, but batted just .197/.264/.258 in 65 games for the Cubs before he was sent to the Phillies for cash considerations.

August 19: Acquired Pat Tabler from the Yankees for two PTBNL

Tabler was a top prospect at the time, but never became a star in 12 MLB seasons, after which he became a longtime broadcaster for the Blue Jays, and in 2023, the Guardians.

Tabler played just one year for the Cubs before he was sent to the South Side in a deal we’ll cover later.

This turned into a bad deal because the PTBNL were relievers Bill Caudill and Jay Howell, both of whom went on to have fine careers elsewhere. They’d have helped quite a bit in the 1984 NLCS.

December 7: Acquired Allen Ripley from the Giants for Doug Capilla

This was Green’s first player-for-player trade.

It was a good deal because Capilla never played in the majors again. Ripley pitched one year for the Cubs in 1982 and posted 0.8 bWAR.

December 8: Acquired Keith Moreland, Dickie Noles and Dan Larson from the Phillies for Mike Krukow

This would turn out to be a popular deal in Chicago as Moreland became a fan favorite. In six years as a Cub he hit 100 home runs and played all over the field, though honestly his best position probably would have been DH, if the Cubs had one at that time.

All of that was worth just 3.8 bWAR, largely because Moreland was such a terrible defender (his offensive bWAR for the Cubs was 10.1).

Krukow pitched one year in Philadelphia, then went on to better years with the Giants, where he works to this day as a beloved broadcaster.

This was a fair deal that produced value for both teams.

The same day, Green re-signed Fergie Jenkins as a free agent.

December 9: Acquired Gary Woods from the Astros for Jim Tracy

Tracy never played for Houston, instead playing a year in Japan and eventually becoming a longtime MLB manager, managing the Dodgers, Pirates and Rockies from 2002-12.

He’s also a good Cubs trivia question answer: “Who’s the last Cub to wear No. 23 before Ryne Sandberg?”

Woods was a useful spare-part outfielder for the Cubs from 1982-85.

December 28: Acquired Paul Mirabella from the Blue Jays for a PTBNL

I mention this only because Mirabella, who never played for the Cubs, was involved in a larger deal the following spring. The PTBNL, sent in March 1982, was Dave Geisel, a lefthander who had pitched briefly for the Cubs in 1978-79 and 1981.

Overall the team did improve in the deals Green made, but the rest were a pile of meh. The grade here is C+.


Give the Cubs a grade for their 1981 trades.

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