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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 2001

Some good, some bad, some “why?”

Mark Bellhorn batting for the Cubs in 2003
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs had made some interesting acquisitions in the previous offseason, including Bill Mueller, Matt Stairs and Tom “Flash” Gordon, and so contended for much of 2001 before fading and finishing third in the NL Central.

The trading market was pretty quiet until near the deadline, when one interesting deal went down.

March 25: Acquired Mike Fyhrie from the Angels for Jose Nieves

Fyhrie, a righthanded reliever, had posted a good year in 2000 in Anaheim, but wound up spending a fair amount of time at Triple-A Iowa after a rough start with the Cubs. Later in the year he’d be traded to the A’s. He posted 0.1 bWAR for the Cubs.

Nieves, a good-field, no-hit backup infielder, played 74 games for the Angels in 2001 and 2002 and posted 0.2 bWAR for them so... pretty much a wash.

March 28: Acquired Miguel Cairo from the Athletics for Eric Hinske

The Cubs had previously lost Cairo to Tampa Bay in the 1997 expansion draft, so getting him back seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Only... they let him go on waivers to the Cardinals before the 2001 season even ended, and he wound up playing 11 more years as a useful backup infielder, playing in six postseasons.

And Hinske... well, the A’s didn’t keep him either, sending him to Toronto before he ever played a MLB game for them, receiving Billy Koch, so at least some value went back to Oakland.

But Hinske wound up as the AL Rookie of the Year in 2002, and hit .249/.332/.430 with 137 home runs in a 12-year MLB career for the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Yankees, Braves and Diamondbacks. He got World Series rings in Boston in 2007 and New York in 2009... and then another one with the Cubs as assistant batting coach in 2016. He’s also served as a coach for the Angels, Diamondbacks and Mets, for whom he is currently the assistant hitting coach.

Shoulda kept Hinske.

March 30: Acquired Manny Aybar from the Marlins for Oswaldo Mairena

Aybar pitched in 17 games for the Cubs with a 6.35 ERA good for -0.4 bWAR and was included in another 2001 deal we’ll note later.

Mairena pitched in 31 games for the Marlins with a 5.35 ERA, -0.3 bWAR.

So, another wash, basically.

July 20: Acquired Michael Tucker from the Reds for Chris Booker and Ben Shaffar

This deal was well received at the time it was made. Tucker had put up some decent seasons for the Royals, Braves and Reds and hit .263/.339/.449 with seven triples and five home runs in 63 games for the Cubs. Then he was traded away after the season ended.

Booker, the Cubs’ 20th round pick in 1995, pitched in three games for the Reds with a 31.50 ERA in 2001, and a few more later for the Royals and Nationals. Shaffar never played in the major leagues.

Tucker posted 1.2 bWAR for the Cubs in a little more than a third of a season. They’d have been better off keeping him.

July 27: Acquired Fred McGriff from the Devil Rays for Manny Aybar and Jason Smith

This deal had been rumored for about three weeks before it was consummated. McGriff, who had a limited no-trade clause, was apparently taking his time deciding whether he wanted to leave his family (he lived in the Tampa area) and approve the deal. (Some bleacherites nicknamed him “The Family Man” after that.)

By numbers, this was a good deal for the Cubs. In 195 games in 2001-02, McGriff hit .276/.361/.518 with 42 home runs, good for 3.3 bWAR. But he never seemed happy in Chicago, and in 2002, after it took him a full week to hit his 30th home run — a milestone he apparently wanted — manager Bruce Kimm benched him the rest of the year. He left as a free agent.

Aybar never pitched for Tampa Bay, he left as a free agent at the end of the year. Smith played 27 games there in 2002-03 and later a few years as a backup infielder for the Tigers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Royals and Astros. (Remember these names for Immaculate Grid!)

So the Cubs won this deal, but it still feels icky, and maybe they shouldn’t have bothered.

July 30: Acquired David Weathers and Roberto Miniel from the Brewers for Ruben Quevedo and Peter Zocolillo

Weathers had good years before he came to the Cubs and after he left the Cubs, but his 28 relief appearances in 2001 after the deal had almost no impact on the team (3.18 ERA, 0.6 bWAR). He left as a free agent at the end of the season and eventually wound up in Cincinnati, where he had good seasons from 2005-07.

Quevedo put up -1.8 bWAR in two years in Milwaukee and was out of baseball, and died way too young (37) in 2016. Zocolillo played in 20 games for the Brewers in 2003 (4-for-37, -0.5 bWAR). Miniel never played in the major leagues.

Another deal the Cubs sort of won, but also sort of shouldn’t have bothered.

I’m going to take a break from trades here to note that on August 10, with the Cubs at 66-48 and leading the NL Central by 1½ games, they waived Miguel Cairo and Gary Matthews Jr. Both of them were claimed. Why they did this is lost to history and totally inexplicable.

September 4: Acquired Mike Wenner from the Athletics for Mike Fyhrie

As noted above, Fyhrie is basically a footnote in Cubs history. Wenner never played in the major leagues.

November 2: Acquired Mark Bellhorn from the Athletics for Adam Morrissey

Morrissey was a good (.951 OPS, but in Low-A), very young (20) prospect at the time, out of Australia.

Bellhorn had a really good year for the Cubs in 2002, batting .258/.374/.512 with 27 home runs. That was a 3.4 bWAR season, despite his mediocre defensive play. His offense declined in 2003 and he was traded in a deal we’ll cover in the next installment.

But this trade produced real value, even if for only a short time.

December 10: Acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Blue Jays for Felix Heredia and Jim Deschaine

A-Gonz hit well for the Cubs in 2002 and 2003, including several walkoff homers. He was just fine until a certain play in the NLCS.

He produced 1.3 bWAR for the Cubs. Heredia pitched one year in Toronto for 0.4 bWAR, so the Cubs win this trade by WAR.

Jim Deschaine never pitched in the major leagues and as far as I know, is no relation to Jim Deshaies.

December 19: Acquired Shawn Sonnier from the Royals for Michael Tucker

Tucker, who had started his career in Kansas City, played two more years for them and posted 0.3 bWAR in those years, while Sonnier never played in the majors.

Still, the Cubs got some value here in a way because on the same day they traded Tucker, they signed Moises Alou to play left field, where Tucker had been in 2001.

We’ll give these a C+, because even though there was some value received, many of these were of the “why bother” variety, and some real talent was sent away in Hinske.


Give the Cubs a grade for their 2001 trades.

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