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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1999

A couple of decent deals were made in ‘99, but most of it was just flailing around.

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There were high hopes for the Cubs in 1999, and they started out 32-23, then had a complete collapse, finishing with 95 losses. The tailspin killed any idea of deadline deals to improve the team.

Let’s remember some guys!

March 28: Traded minor leaguers John Cotton and Kevin Rawitzer to the Rockies for a PTBNL

Neither of the minor leaguers the Cubs sent to Colorado ever played in the majors. The PTBNL, sent in July, was Tarrik Brock, who became known as the “second-best Brock in Cubs history.” (He went 2-for-12 in 13 games for the Cubs in 2000.) Brock has been the Pirates’ first base coach since 2020.

May 21: Acquired Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs from the Twins for Jason Ryan and Kyle Lohse

The Cubs were desperate for a closer when Rod Beck went down with an elbow injury, so Ed Lynch dealt for a guy who was just about done. To be fair, Aguilera had 38 saves for the Twins in ‘98 and had started out well for them in ‘99 (1.29 ERA, six saves in eight chances).

In his first Wrigley Field appearance as a Cub, Aguilera was given a save opportunity against the Marlins with a 5-3 lead in the ninth. He allowed a pair of hits sandwiched in between two flyouts.

Then this happened.

The ball probably should have been caught, instead it went for a three-run, inside-the-park home run by Kevin Millar — incidentally, his first MLB home run. Aguilera had a 6.97 ERA and four blown saves in his first 21 games as a Cub. They kept him around until the end of 2000, when he retired. He had 0.4 bWAR for the Cubs over the two seasons.

The Cubs, as you know, had traded Downs to the Twins the previous year for Mike Morgan. They got him back here, he pitched for them briefly in 2000, then was traded again in a deal we’ll cover in the next installment. As I noted earlier, the Cubs should have kept him, as he went on to a long career as a useful middle reliever.

At the time of this deal, Jason Ryan was the guy the Twins wanted, considered a pretty good prospect. He pitched in 24 games for the Twins in 1999 and 2000, then a few more minor league/indy league seasons, and that was it. Kyle Lohse was a throw-in. Lohse turned out to be a valuable guy. He had a 16-year MLB career, five of those seasons for the Twins (and three postseasons for them), and also pitched for the Reds, Phillies, Cardinals, Brewers and Rangers in a 19.4 bWAR career, 6.6 of which was for the Twins. Pretty good for a 29th-round draft pick.

The Cubs should not have made this trade at all.

July 31: Acquired Micah Bowie, Ruben Quevedo and Joey Nation from the Braves for Terry Mulholland and Jose Hernandez

Well out of contention, the Cubs were sellers at the deadline. Mulholland and Hernandez were useful complementary parts for the Braves, and the Cubs figured that with Atlanta’s success with pitching, they’d have some useful young arms to spare.

Instead, this deal was proof that the Braves knew what they were doing when they traded Bowie, Quevedo and Nation to the Cubs. All were awful on the North Side, though Bowie went on to have a couple decent years as a reliever in Oakland and Washington.

All told, the three pitchers the Cubs got put together a 5-18 W-L record in 34 games (28 starts), with an 8.22 ERA and 1.943 WHIP, with 96 walks and 114 strikeouts in 146⅔ innings, including 33 home runs allowed. All of that produced -3.9 bWAR.

Bowie fell on hard times after baseball with his physical health and, last I read, was using an oxygen tank to get around (story from 2019). Quevedo died, way too young at 37, in 2016. That’s very sad.

The Cubs were right to move on from Mulholland and Hernandez, but they should have gotten better value.

August 31: Acquired Cole Liniak and a PTBNL from the Red Sox for Rod Beck

The problem with Rod Beck’s tenure with the Cubs was that he wasn’t upfront with the team about his elbow issues. He was pitching on grit the last month or so of 1998 and had he told the Cubs about his problems when the season ended, he could have had some cleanup surgery (not TJS) and been ready for Opening Day.

Instead, he tried to gut it out again when 1999 started, pitched poorly and finally went on the disabled list in mid-May — just before the Cubs traded for Aguilera. He came back, again didn’t pitch well and so the Cubs sent him to Boston.

The PTBNL turned into Mark Guthrie, who pitched in 30 games for the Cubs in 1999 and 2000 before he was traded in a deal we’ll cover later. The Cubs got him back in 2003 and he was fairly effective then.

Cole Liniak, a third baseman, was considered to be a decent Red Sox prospect, but the Cubs never gave him any playing time or any chances to be the regular third baseman. He played in 12 games for the Cubs in ‘99 and three more in 2000, batting .219/.242/.281, and was let go after the 2000 season.

Beck posted 2.7 bWAR for the Red Sox and the Cubs signed him back in the 2002-03 offseason and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. He had an opt-out in his deal that said if he wasn’t called up by June 1, the Cubs would let him go. Why they didn’t is beyond me, but they did let him go and he signed with the Padres, for whom he posted a 1.78 ERA and 20 saves (with no blown saves) in 36 games.

Yeah, I’m thinking the Cubs could have used that in the 2003 playoffs. Bad work here, Jim Hendry. Beck, as you know, died way too young as well, age 37, in 2007.

As for the trade, that’s also a loss because the Cubs got little from Guthrie and nothing from Liniak.

August 31: Acquired Richard Negrette from the Indians for Tyler Houston

Houston had outlived his usefulness on the North Side, so time for him to go. Negrette, a righthanded pitcher, never played in the major leagues, but was traded only a few months later in a deal that benefitted the Cubs, more a bit later in this post. Houston posted negative bWAR for Cleveland, so this was a small win.

December 12: Acquired Eric Young Sr. and Ismael Valdez from the Dodgers for Terry Adams, Chad Ricketts and Brian Stephenson

This was a good trade. Young had two good years for the Cubs, posting 4.5 bWAR and stealing 54 bases in 2000 — most since Ryne Sandberg’s 54 in 1985. He left as a free agent after 2001 and later became a coach with the Astros, Rockies and Braves.

I cannot figure out what happened to Valdez with the Cubs. He’d been a solid rotation starter with the Dodgers for the previous five seasons and was only 26, but he was just bad for the Cubs — 5.37 ERA, 1.463 WHIP in 12 starts. Somehow that was worth positive bWAR (0.5). They managed to convince the Dodgers to take him back, though they didn’t get much in that deal.

Adams posted 2.6 bWAR for the Dodgers in 2000 and 2001 and also pitched for the Phillies, Blue Jays and Red Sox. Ricketts (no relation to the family that now owns the Cubs) and Stephenson never pitched in the major leagues. All in all, this was a slight win for the Cubs.

December 12: Acquired Damon Buford from the Red Sox for Manny Alexander

The son of former White Sox player Don Buford had been a bit player around MLB for the Orioles, Mets, Rangers and Red Sox before this deal. He put up one okay year for the Cubs in 2000 — .251/.324/.39 with 15 home runs in 150 games (0.6 bWAR), then played and hit poorly in 37 games in 2001 and was released May 16.

Alexander was a utility infielder for Boston in 2000 with negative bWAR, so the Cubs get the nod on this deal.

December 13: Acquired Augie Ojeda from the Orioles for Richard Negrette

There’s the swap of Negrette, who had been acquired in August for Tyler Houston, essentially making the deal Houston for Ojeda.

Ojeda never hit much for the Cubs, overall .196/.267/.275 with three home runs in 148 games from 2000-03, but he was an excellent defender and a popular fan favorite.

Later, he played four years with the Diamondbacks and hit reasonably well for them and went crazy in the division series against the Cubs in 2007, going 4-for-9 with a double.

The Cubs got some talent in these deals but overall they were pretty “meh,” thus my C- grade.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This series will resume on Monday.

Poll

Give the Cubs a grade for their 1999 trades.

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    A
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  • 2%
    B
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  • 55%
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    F
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