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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1995

These trades were pretty good, but again could have been better if they’d just kept one of the guys they got.

Luis Gonzalez
Getty Images

1995 began quietly on MLB’s transaction front, as the players’ strike was not resolved until late March, and then not until after a court injunction and the threat of owners using replacement players.

So, too, were Cubs trades quiet for a time.

January 11: Acquired Keith Kessinger from the Reds for Greg Hillman

The son of popular late 1960s/early 1970s Cub Don Kessinger had been a 36th-round pick of the Orioles in 1989 and played a handful of games for the Reds in the majors in 1993. He played 141 games in the Cubs minors in Double-A and Triple-A in 1995 and 1996, then was done with baseball. His nephew, and Don’s grandson, Grae Kessinger, made his MLB debut for the Astros in 2023.

Hillman, a lefthanded pitcher, never played in the majors, so this deal did nothing for either team.

April 5: Acquired Brian McRae from the Royals for Derek Wallace and Geno Morones

McRae, son of former Royals star Hal McRae, had his two best seasons with the Cubs in 1995 and 1996, batting .282/.354/.432 those two years with 64 stolen bases and 29 home runs, with a total of 7.2 bWAR. His 37 steals in 1996 were the most by a Cub since Ryne Sandberg had 54 and Davey Lopes 47 in 1985.

McRae was then involved in another deal that turned out well for the Cubs that we’ll cover later.

Wallace was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick (11th overall) in 1992. Others drafted after Wallace in that round included Jason Kendall, Johnny Damon, Charles Johnson and Shannon Stewart. Wallace didn’t pitch for the Royals until 1999, by which time he had been traded to the Mets and back to Kansas City. He posted 0.2 bWAR for K.C. in ‘99.

Big win here for the Cubs.

June 16: Acquired Todd Zeile from the Cardinals for Mike Morgan, Francisco Morales and Paul Torres

This was an odd deal, sort of a panic trade. The Cubs had gotten off to a good start in ‘95 and were in first place in the NL Central for a short time in May and early June. Then a “June Swoon” followed in which they lost eight of nine.

“Do something!” thought Ed Lynch, and he did, trading for the Cardinals third baseman, who’d put up some pretty good years previously. He was an impending free agent and my recollection is that he very early let it be known that he wasn’t interested in re-signing with the Cubs.

So they got 79 games worth of pretty mediocre hitting: .227/.271/.371 with nine home runs and -1.3 bWAR, and he left and signed a FA deal with the Phillies. That led to an odyssey that over nine seasons (1996-2004) had him playing with the Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees, Expos and Mets again.

Zeile wasn’t a bad player, though he really wasn’t much of a defender at third base. He posted 19.4 career bWAR, though never won an award or made an All-Star team.

Morgan, who had posted a really good year for the Cubs in 1992 (16-8, 2.55 ERA, 3.6 bWAR), declined precipitously over the next couple of seasons. He wasn’t all that good in St. Louis, either (1.1 bWAR in 35 starts in ‘95 and ‘96) and he, too, went on a team odyssey: Reds, Twins, back to the Cubs in ‘98, Rangers and Diamondbacks, in addition to the teams he had played on before the Cubs: A’s, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles and Dodgers.

Let’s call this one the “Immaculate Grid Trade.”

(Neither Morales nor Torres ever played in the majors.)

June 19: Acquired Dax Winslett from the Dodgers for Willie Banks

I include this one only because “Dax Winslett” sounds like the name of a friendly alien ship captain on Star Trek. He never played in the majors.

Banks pitched for the Dodgers, Marlins, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Red Sox through 2002 with a total of -0.3 bWAR for those seasons.

They might as well have not bothered.

June 28: Acquired Luis Gonzalez and Scott Servais from the Astros for Rick Wilkins

This could be chalked up as another “if only they had kept that guy!” deal, except for the fact that when Gonzalez was headed to free agency after 1996, Lynch made it very clear that the Cubs weren’t interested in re-signing him.

Big mistake, Ed: Gonzalez played 11 more seasons, batted .288/.378/.498 with 280 home runs, hit 57 for the D-backs in 2001, made five All-Star teams and is now a beloved elder statesman for Diamondbacks fans.

Would he have done that in Chicago? I’d have loved to know. His season and a half with the Cubs were decent enough, 4.7 bWAR in 223 games with a .278/.365/.454 slash. Servais spent the next three-plus seasons as the Cubs’ more-or-less starting catcher, posting 3.5 bWAR overall. So that’s 8.2 bWAR acquired in this deal, and Wilkins, who had one of the most flukish 30-homer seasons ever in 1993 (there were people back then who were making dead-on serious comps to Mike Piazza), gave the Astros 0.1 bWAR total before he left and signed as a free agent with the Giants before 1998.

So the deal itself was a win for the Cubs.

But man, they should have kept Gonzalez. He re-signed with Houston for the 1997 season for just $1.4 million — you’d think the Cubs could have afforded that. He wasn’t even that expensive when he signed a three-year, $12.5 million deal with Arizona before the 2000 season.

Sigh. Big whiff for Ed Lynch on letting Gonzalez walk, but a solid B+ on the trades themselves.

Poll

Give the Cubs a grade for their 1995 trades.

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A
    (28 votes)
  • 46%
    B
    (130 votes)
  • 32%
    C
    (91 votes)
  • 8%
    D
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (8 votes)
282 votes total Vote Now