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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1996

A very slow trade year.

Tyler Houston bats for the Cubs in 1997
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Ed Lynch was busy in this year, but not with trades. Instead, he tried to improve the Cubs via free agent signings and... well, that didn’t work very well. Jaime Navarro had one decent year before leaving, and his other “name” FA signings were Doug Jones, Dave Magadan, Kent Bottenfield and Terry Shumpert. Yikes.

There were just three player-for-player deals made by Lynch in ‘96.

April 8: Traded Matt Franco to the Mets for a PTBNL

This was not a good trade. Franco was nothing special, but he did have several decent years as a Mets backup infielder, including playing in the World Series in 2000. Then he played against the Cubs for the Braves in their 2003 division series.

The PTBNL was a righthanded pitcher named Chris DeWitt, who never played in the majors.

The Cubs might have been able to use Franco.

June 27: Acquired Tyler Houston from the Braves for Ismael Villegas

Houston was a hot high-school prospect when the Braves took him in the first round (second overall) in 1989. In fact, Houston attended Valley High School in Las Vegas, the same school that produced Greg Maddux.

Houston never hit the way the Braves hoped he would, and so seven years later they shipped him to the Cubs. He didn’t hit much for the Cubs, either: .261/.309/.388 with 22 home runs in 313 games. He played all over the infield and caught, and he left the Cubs as a free agent after ‘99. Eventually he had two pretty good years with the Brewers in 2000 and 2001.

He wound up with negative bWAR as a Cub (-0.4) and Villegas pitched in exactly one MLB game, in which he allowed four runs and two homers in 2⅔ innings, for -0.1 bWAR.

It was, thus, not much of a deal for either side.

Incidentally, the caption provided with the photo of Houston above says:

Tyler Houston #7 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1997 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A little sleuthing added to this post: Houston played in three games for the Cubs at Pittsburgh in 1997. Two of them were night games. Thus this photo must have been taken May 26, 1997, the only day game of the three. Houston went 0-for-4, but the Cubs won the game 2-1.

November 20: Acquired Miguel Cairo from the Blue Jays for Jason Stevenson

Cairo spent most of ‘97 at Triple-A Iowa, playing in only 16 MLB games. Then the Cubs left him unprotected in the expansion draft and he was taken by Tampa Bay. After two years there, the then-Devil Rays released him and the Cubs, realizing they might have missed something, reacquired him in a deal we’ll cover later in this series.

Cairo played reasonably well for the Cubs in 2001, batting .295/.366/.417 in 66 games, when they inexplicably put him on waivers in August, where he was claimed by the Cardinals.

He played 11 seasons after that as a useful backup infielder, playing in six postseasons and getting a World Series ring in 2009 with the Phillies (though he didn’t play in the WS). After his playing career he coached for the Reds and White Sox and was briefly the Sox interim manager after they let Tony La Russa go in 2022.

Stevenson never played in the majors, so I guess this is a small win for the Cubs, again with a player they should have just kept.

I’ll just give these trades a “C+” because they scream out “middle of the pack.”


Give the Cubs a grade for their 1996 trades.

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