The 1985 Cubs, determined to do better than their NLCS loss in ‘84, roared out to a great start. They were 35-19 on June 11 and led the N.L. East by four games. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, at least pitching wise. Five Cubs starters — Rick Sutcliffe, Dennis Eckersley, Scott Sanderson, Steve Trout and Dick Ruthven — were injured at one time or another. This resulted in 36 starts given to Lary Sorensen, Jay Baller, Steve Engel, Derek Botelho, Johnny Abrego and whatever was left (not much) of Larry Gura. The results were predictable. The team lost 13 straight from June 12-25 and never were in contention after that.
The trade market was quiet.
April 1: Acquired Jay Baller from the Indians for Dan Rohn
Dan Rohn, not to be confused with the longtime WGN-TV sportscaster Dan Roan (even though their names were similarly prounounced), had played a handful of games for the Cubs in 1983 and 1984. He played in just six games for Cleveland (in ‘86), for -0.1 bWAR.
Ah, yes, Jay Baller, whose name was pronounced “BAA-ler,” not “BALL-er.” He had been one of Dallas Green’s top draft picks (1979) when Green was Phillies director of player development. His numbers in the Philly organization were pedestrian and they traded him to Cleveland in the massive 1982 deal (along with ex-Cub Manny Trillo!) that brought Von Hayes to Philadelphia.
But Green thought there was something left in Baller, so he became a Cub. He wasn’t terrible in ‘85 — 20 games, 3.46 ERA, 1.1 bWAR — but was much worse in ‘86 and ‘87, combining for a 5.88 ERA and 1.735 WHIP in 59 relief appearances. In ‘87 he had five saves and five blown saves and the Cubs had seen enough, releasing him at the end of ‘87.
July 26: Acquired Dave Beard from the Athletics for Tom Grant
I have to say I have zero memory of Tom Grant, who was the Cubs’ 16th round pick in 1979 out of the University of New Haven and who played 16 games for them in 1983, going 3-for-20 with a double. His baseball-reference page says he was an outfielder. He never played in the majors again.
Dave Beard was a useful reliever for the A’s in 1982 (0.7 bWAR, 3.44 ERA, 11 saves), worse for them in ‘83, traded to the Mariners (for ex-Cub Bill Caudill!) and then eventually released and signed by Cleveland.
He pitched in nine games for the Cubs, posted a 6.39 ERA, and was released after the season.
Definitely a nominee for “Most Useless Trade of the 1980s.”
December 11: Acquired Manny Trillo from the Giants for Dave Owen
Owen’s MLB claim to fame is that he was the guy who drove in the actual winning run in the Sandberg Game (Sandberg’s two homers both tied the contest).
Trillo returned to the Cubs seven years after being traded away and having played in two World Series and three All-Star Games.
He had one pretty good year as a part-time player in ‘88, batting .294/.367/.444 with eight home runs in 244 plate appearances, giving the Cubs 0.7 bWAR in his second stint on the North SIde.
Not only did Owen never play for the Giants, they released him before the end of the following Spring Training.
So this one’s a win, if a small one, for the Cubs.
December 16: Acquired Jerry Mumphrey from the Astros for Billy Hatcher and a PTBNL
The PTBNL, sent in July 1986, was Steve Engel, who never played for Houston, so this deal boiled down to Mumphrey for Hatcher.
Mumphrey had some decent years in both St. Louis and Houston, but by 1986 was 33 and definitely on the downside of his career. He hit .304/.355/.401 in 339 PA in ‘86 but was a terrible defender, largely because Jim Frey insisted on playing him in center field, which he was not suited for at that stage of his career.
His hitting improved to .333/.400/.534 with 13 home runs in 346 PA in 1987. The 13 homers was a career high (a LOT of guys set career highs in HR in ‘87, though) and he played mostly left field, a better spot for him. It was a 2.5 bWAR season. He hit poorly in ‘88 and retired.
That’s not bad but... the Cubs almost certainly could have gotten better production from Hatcher, who had played a few games for them in ‘84 and ‘85. Hatcher played 10 seasons after the trade, mostly with the Astros, Reds and Red Sox. He stole 218 bases after the deal, and provided 2.0 bWAR for the 1990 Reds World Series winning team.
Hatcher wasn’t a great player but the Cubs probably should have just kept him.
I’ll give this year’s handful of deals a C+.
Give the Cubs a grade for their 1985 trades.
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