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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1990

A quiet year on the trade front.

Rey Sanchez plays for the Cubs in 1997
Getty Images

Just as they did after they won the 1984 N.L. East title, the 1990 Cubs tried to repeat the success they’d had in 1989.

And just as happened in 1985, the 1990 season went “clunk.” In fact, they wound up with essentially the same record (77-85 in ‘90, 77-84 in ‘85).

GM Jim Frey didn’t do much on the trade front, though at the end of the year three big free agents were signed: Danny Jackson, George Bell and Dave Smith. Bell did all right and was eventually traded in an important deal we’ll cover later. Jackson and Smith were flops.

January 3: Acquired Rey Sanchez from the Rangers for Bryan House

House, a ninth-round pick of the Cubs in ‘84, never played in the major leagues.

Sanchez was the Cubs’ more-or-less regular second baseman/shortstop until mid-1996. He played short in a lot of the games Shawon Dunston didn’t, and second otherwise. He wasn’t much of a hitter (.627 OPS in his Cubs years, with 22 steals and 14 caught stealing), but was an elite defender who provided 6.1 bWAR for the Cubs. Big win here for Jim Frey.

April 30: Acquired Bill Long from the White Sox for Frank Campos

Long had been a somewhat-useful swingman for the Sox for a couple of years. He made 42 relief appearances for the Cubs in ‘90 with a 4.37 ERA and five saves, producing 0.3 bWAR. He was released at the end of the season.

Campos never played in the major leagues.

So I guess the Cubs “won” this one, too.

September 1: Acquired Randy Kramer from the Pirates for Greg Kallevig

This was an odd trade. The Cubs were buried in fifth place in the N.L. East and the Pirates were on their way to a division title, their first since 1979. Kramer was 29 and had split the year between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Buffalo.

He pitched in 10 games (two starts) for the Cubs with a 3.98 ERA, good for 0.2 bWAR. I confess I have pretty much no memory of him with the Cubs at all. Kallevig never played in the majors. Like Long, Kramer was released after the season ended.

Frey wins again!

September 7: Traded Lloyd McClendon to the Pirates for a PTBNL

As we learned in the last installment, McClendon’s numbers had crashed after his good 1989 season. The PTBNL, acquired September 28, was a minor leaguer named Mike Pomeranz, who never played in the majors.

McClendon had four decent years in Pittsburgh, including going 8-for-11 with two doubles, a home run and four walks in the 1992 NLCS. Eventually, he became Pirates manager.

December 14: Acquired Jose Vizcaino from the Dodgers for Greg Smith

Smith, a second baseman/shortstop, was considered a good prospect but was blocked with the Cubs because Dunston and Ryne Sandberg were there, as well as Sanchez. So Frey traded him for... another middle infielder in Vizcaino.

Smith played in only five games for the Dodgers, and a few more in the minor leagues for the Tigers, Brewers, Twins, Orioles and Reds organizations through 1995.

Vizcaino actually was a pretty good utility infielder, and wound up playing a lot of games at shortstop in 1993, when Dunston spent most of the year injured. He never did hit much, but was a good defender. The Cubs got 2.1 bWAR from him, traded him away in a deal we’ll cover later, and he wound up playing 13 more years for the Mets, Indians, Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Giants again and Cardinals. He played in six postseasons and got a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2000.

The Cubs “won” this deal but... maybe they just should have kept Vizcaino.

I’ll give these deals a B- because the Cubs got value and gave up almost nothing, but... it wasn’t much value.


Give the Cubs a grade for their 1990 trades.

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