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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 2002

There were high hopes for the team in ‘02 after a solid year in ‘01.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs won 88 games in 2001 and were in first place in the NL Central for quite a while. So there was much hope in 2002, but... the team fell flat, and as a result changes were made in the manager’s chair and the executive suite. Jim Hendry replaced Andy MacPhail as Cubs GM July 5, 2002, with MacPhail remaining as team president.

March 19: Acquired Winston Abreu from the Padres for Keto Anderson

Nominee for “Most Useless Trade of the 2000s.” Abreu was released at the end of April. Anderson never played in the major leagues.

March 27: Acquired Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca from the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgensen and Jose Cueto

Well, this one’s pretty interesting.

Clement was a solid starter for the Cubs for three seasons, posting 11.0 bWAR (and Dusty Baker probably should have had him ready to pitch in relief in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS). Alfonseca was a useful reliever in 2003, not so much in 2004.

Willis gave the Marlins five really good years, including being named NL Rookie of the Year in 2003 and finishing second in Cy Young voting in 2005, when he won 22 games and led MLB with five complete-game shutouts. That was all worth 17.2 bWAR.

Willis, the Cubs’ eighth-round pick out of HS in California in 2000, had been very good in the Cubs system — but hadn’t pitched above rookie ball. There was no way anyone could have expected him to be a MLB star in 2003 at age 21. It was a real feel-good story, until injuries ruined the rest of Willis’ career. He now appears occasionally as an analyst on MLB Network.

Julian Tavarez pitched only one year for the Marlins, and not very well (-1.0 bWAR) after one mediocre year with the Cubs in 2001, but he pitched seven more years after that as a reliever/spot starter with the Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers, Braves and Nationals, appearing in the World Series for St. Louis in 2004.

I’m going to say this deal was good for the Cubs despite the WAR difference. Clement pitched well and was a fan favorite. They let him walk after 2004 and he pitched only two more years, both in Boston, and neither was that good.

Jorgensen played in four MLB games for the Marlins and Cueto never played in the big leagues.

June 9: Acquired Jackson Melian from the Brewers for Robert Machado

Melian, a prospect from Venezuela, had been signed to great fanfare by the Yankees in 1996. At the time his $1.6 million bonus was the largest ever given to a Latin American player. He was a Top 100 prospect four years in a row and played in the Futures Game in 2000. But he never panned out, and from the Brewers system he went to the Cubs, Braves, back to the Yankees, Tigers and Astros and a couple years in indy ball without ever playing in the majors.

Machado was your typical good-field, no-hit backup catcher. He had 0.1 bWAR in his one year in Milwaukee, so I guess you could say the Brewers “won” this deal.

July 31: Acquired Chad Hermansen from the Pirates for Ricardo Palma and Tim Lavery

This deal was supposed to send outfielder Darren Lewis to the Pirates for Hermansen, but he chose to retire instead of report to the Bucs, so the deal was re-worked for the two minor-league relievers, neither of whom ever played in the majors.

Hermansen was the Pirates’ No. 1 pick (10th overall) in 1995 and was a Top 100 prospect five years in a row (1996-2000). He hit pretty well in the minors up to 1999 but the Pirates gave him only a couple of September callups.

The Cubs never gave him much of a chance either; he played in 35 games and had 49 plate appearances, batting .209/.292/.349 with one home run and -0.6 bWAR. The Cubs, however, did eventually get some value from him, as you will see below.

August 22: Acquired Russ Rohlicek, Travis Anderson and Mike Nannini from the Astros for Tom Gordon

Gordon was a pending free agent and the Cubs didn’t want to re-sign him. So they got these three prospects and exactly none of them played a single MLB game.

Gordon, though, pitched seven more seasons, five of which were at least decent, and he had 34 saves for the Phillies in 2006. Maybe the Cubs should have paid the $1.4 million that the White Sox did to keep him around in 2003.

August 25: Acquired Jared Blasdell and Jason Karnuth from the Cardinals for Jeff Fassero

Fassero had pitched very well for the Cubs in 2001, but 2002 was a bad year for him (6.18 ERA, -0.9 bWAR) and he was a 39-year-old pending free agent.

Of course, as soon as he got to St. Louis he threw pretty well and helped them in the postseason (four scoreless appearances), and pitched four more years after that, though none of those years was very good.

Neither Blasdell nor Karnuth played a single MLB game.

September 4: Acquired Jeff Verplancke from the Giants for Bill Mueller

It’s really too bad Mueller’s tenure with the Cubs was so injury-filled, because if they had kept him around in 2003 that might have been really good — he batted .326/.398/.540 with 19 home runs for the Red Sox and got some downballot MVP votes.

Didn’t do much for the Giants in his eight-game reunion tour in ‘02, though, and Verplancke never played in the majors, so the deal itself was kind of a nothing wash.

November 13: Acquired Damian Miller from the Diamondbacks for Gary Johnson and Dave Noyce

This was one of Hendry’s better deals. Miller was a solid performer in 2003 and a clubhouse leader. He didn’t hit much, but his defense was solid and fans liked him.

Neither Johnson nor Noyce ever played in the major leagues.

November 26: Acquired Paul Bako from the Brewers for Ryan Gripp

Hendry thus traded for his 2003 catching tandem with in a two-week period. Bako, like Miller, wasn’t much of a hitter but was a solid defender. Gripp never played in the majors.

December 4: Acquired Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros from the Dodgers for Chad Hermansen and Todd Hundley

By the time the 2002 season ended Todd Hundley had become one of the most disliked Cubs of his era. He constantly complained about Wrigley being too cold, or the games being “too early” (apparently he didn’t like day games). He bitched about being benched on Opening Day 2001 for Joe Girardi. The Cubs had signed him to a four-year deal before 2001 and Cubs fans were afraid they’d be stuck with him for two more years but somehow, some way, Hendry managed to get the Dodgers to take those years.

Hundley, who had had two good years in L.A. before he came to the Cubs, played in only 21 games for them in 2003, batting .182/.341/.394, then sat out the rest of that year and all of 2004 with various injuries.

It really was a shame, Cubs fans WANTED to like Todd because of the popularity of his dad, Randy, during his Cubs days, but... Todd just couldn’t do it. Later it was revealed that he had an addiction to painkillers.

Meanwhile, Grudzielanek and Karros were key contributors to the Cubs’ NL Central title team in 2003. Karros batted .286/.340/.446 with 12 home runs in 114 games, including this key home run to beat the Yankees and deny Roger Clemens his 300th win:

When Karros departed as a free agent after the season, he bought a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune thanking Cubs fans and said that “every player should spend one year as a Chicago Cub.”

Grudzielanek had a 2.3 bWAR season in 2003, batting .314/.366/.416 with 38 doubles and getting some downballot MVP votes. He was injured much of 2004, then also left via free agency.

Jim Hendry got tremendous value in that trade, one of the best of that era.

All told, these trades rate a B, mostly for the Karros/Grudzielanek and Clement deals.


Give the Cubs a grade for their 2002 trades.

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