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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 2003

Not much happened, and then one BIG deal went down.

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The Cubs stood pat trade-wise over the 2002-03 offseason, though they did sign some free agents, including Tom Goodwin and Lenny Harris — the latter, terrible for the Cubs, wound up with a World Series ring after the Cubs let him go and he signed with the Marlins.

Trade-wise... here we go.

May 9: Traded Alan Benes to the Rangers for a PTBNL

Alan, brother of Andy, had made seven starts for the Cubs in 2002 and three relief appearances in 2003 with a 3.97 ERA and a total of 0.6 bWAR.

The PTBNL appears to have been... Alan Benes, because the Cubs reacquired him June 5 for a minor leaguer named Steve O’Sullivan. Benes never pitched again for the Cubs, spending three years after that in the Cardinals farm system before hanging it up after 2006.

May 29: Acquired Chris Donnels from the Diamondbacks for Derrin Ebert

Donnels was the Mets’ No. 1 pick in 1987 (24th overall) but was never more than a part-time player in MLB. He played three years in Japan where he batted .288/.401/.507 with 42 home runs in 264 games, then returned to be a bit player in MLB again. He never played for the Cubs; his time in the organization was 31 games at Triple-A Iowa, at which time he was sent to the Marlins for cash considerations.

Ebert never played in the majors, so this was a nothing deal for both teams.

June 20: Acquired Jose Hernandez from the Rockies for Mark Bellhorn

Bellhorn was really good for the Cubs in 2002, but batted just .209/.341/.317 with two home runs in 51 games for the Cubs in ‘03. Later, he’d go on to have a fine year in 2004 in Boston, and hit a couple of key home runs for them in the ALCS and World Series.

Hernandez, as you know, played for the Cubs from 1994-99 when he was sent to the Braves. After stints in Atlanta and Milwaukee, he signed with the Rockies before 2003. He played just 23 games in his second go-around with the Cubs before he was sent away again...

July 23: Acquired Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton from the Pirates for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and Matt Bruback

Let’s be clear: This was 100 percent a salary dump by the Pirates, so ordered of GM Dave Littlefield by Pirates ownership. The Pirates invested money in Ramirez after his .300/.350/.536, 34-homer season in 2001, but A-Ram declined in 2002 and though he hit a bit better in Pittsburgh to start ‘03, there was that salary dump thing.

Obviously, the Cubs got a fantastic deal here. Ramirez hit .294/.356/.531 with 239 home runs in nine years in Chicago and helped lead the Cubs to three division titles. That’s 24.1 bWAR for A-Ram (and that could have been higher but his defensive numbers were, to be charitable, not good). The 239 homers rank seventh in franchise history, just three behind Anthony Rizzo.

Many people said the Cubs should have kept Lofton. In fact, this deal might not have happened if not for the injury to Corey Patterson, who was having a good year in ‘03 before he tore his ACL in early July. The Cubs, in contention, needed a center fielder and Lofton, a pending free agent, was available. If Patterson isn’t injured then, the Pirates likely deal Ramirez to someone else.

The Cubs expected Patterson back in ‘04, so they let Lofton walk. Patterson did come back and had a decent year in ‘04, but was much worse in ‘05 and the Cubs traded him to Baltimore in a deal we’ll cover later on. Lofton was 36 and past his prime when the Cubs got him, but he did bat .303/.367/.409 with 84 stolen bases from 2004-07 with the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers and back to where he started in Cleveland. The Cubs would have done better keeping him. His 2,428 career hits and 622 stolen bases to go along with 68.4 bWAR make him a borderline Hall of Famer.

Bobby Hill, at the time of the trade, was a highly-regarded young player who’d hit .253/.327/.374 in 59 games for the Cubs in 2002. He just never made it; he was done in the majors after 2005 but did play four more years in indy ball from 2008-11. Hernandez didn’t do much for the Pirates but hit .289/.370/.540 with 13 home runs in 95 games for the Dodgers in ‘04. Bruback never played in the majors. This deal was a huge win for the Cubs.

July 30: Acquired Doug Glanville from the Rangers for Jason Fransz

Glanville, by this time a fourth/fifth outfielder, played in just 28 games for the Cubs and batted .235/.259/.294. He did hit a key triple in Game 4 of the NLCS, which we’d all remember a lot more fondly if the Cubs had won that series.

Fransz never played in the majors, so I guess the Cubs win this one, slightly.

August 17: Acquired Randall Simon from the Pirates for Ray Sadler

Simon was a fan favorite for his fun-loving demeanor. That got him in trouble earlier in the year in Milwaukee when he hit one of the Milwaukee Racing Sausages [VIDEO].

A few weeks later, just before the Cubs acquired him, Simon apologized to the young woman, Mandy Block, who was wearing the sausage costume that night.

Simon batted .282/.318/.485 with six home runs in 33 games for the Cubs and then hit .333/.333/.583 (8-for-24) with three doubles and a home run in the postseason. Alas, that didn’t help the Cubs in October 2003, and Simon left after the year as a free agent. He later played in Japan and the Mexican League and was still active as late as 2011 in indy ball.

This 2022 MLB.com article tells a bit more about Block and what happened to her afterwards, which included getting Simon to autograph a bat for her.

Sadler, a Cubs 30th round pick in 1999, went 2-for-8 in three games for the Pirates in 2005.

August 19: Acquired Tony Womack from the Rockies for Emmanuel Ramirez

Womack had played many years in Arizona, including leading the NL in steals three years in a row (1997-99) and getting a ring with them in 2001.

Mark Grudzielanek had been injured in early August and the Cubs were seeking a fill-in second baseman, and Womack did a reasonable job, though he didn’t hit much (12-for-51). The Cubs left him off the postseason roster. Then he signed with the Cardinals in 2004 and batted .307/.349/.385 with 26 steals and played in the WS again. No justice, I tell you.

Womack had positive bWAR for the Cubs, if just barely (0.1) and Rivera never played in the majors, so this is a slight win for the Cubs.

And he can be a win for you in Immaculate Grid if you remember that he played for the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees and Reds. He finished his MLB career with a 19-game second stint with the Cubs in 2006.

August 25: Acquired John Koronka from the Reds for Phil Norton

Koronka pitched in four games (three starts) for the Cubs in 2005 with a jet-plane 7.47 ERA and -0.3 bWAR.

Norton posted a 4.59 ERA in 86 games for the Reds in 2003 and 2004 with 0.0 bWAR.

Let’s just call this one a wash.

November 25: Acquired Derrek Lee from the Marlins for Hee Seop Choi and Mike Nannini

It’s a shame the Cubs had to part from Choi. The concussion he suffered when he and Kerry Wood collided on the field in 2003 ruined Choi’s career, I think; he was never quite the same after that, though he went back to his native Korea after 2006 and had several good years there, hanging it up after 2015.

Meanwhile, though, D-Lee became a popular fan favorite with the Cubs and had one truly outstanding year, 2005, when he batted .335/.418/.662 with 50 doubles. He led the NL in hits, doubles, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. Lee and Mark Grace (51 in 1995) are the only Cubs to have 50 doubles in a season since 1936, and Lee is the only qualified Cub to hit .335 or better since Bill Madlock in 1976.

Lee hit 179 home runs for the Cubs, 13th-most in franchise history, and posted 22.6 bWAR for the team. Nannini never played in the major leagues.

This was a big win for the Cubs.

December 19: Acquired Jose Macias from the the Expos for Wilton Chavez

Macias became a Dusty Baker favorite. Why, I have no idea. He was your typical good-field, no-hit middle infielder, but Baker gave him way more playing time than he should have had. In two years he played in 210 games for the Cubs and batted .261/.284/.348. Overall he posted -0.6 bWAR for the Cubs. Chavez never played in the major leagues.

The Lee and Ramirez deals make 2003 an A- year for Cubs trades.

Poll

Give the Cubs a grade for their 2003 trades.

  • 79%
    A
    (334 votes)
  • 18%
    B
    (79 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
422 votes total Vote Now