Jim Hendry was fired as GM halfway through this year, though not before he bestowed Javy Báez on the team as a parting gift. So the early deals in 2011 were his, and the later ones were under Theo Epstein’s regime.
January 11: Acquired Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup from the Rays for Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Hak Ju Lee
Funny thing, when this deal was made the guy many Cubs fans were most upset about losing was Lee, who was seen as the “shortstop of the future.” Even as a 20-year-old prospect he had already made one Top 100 list and played in the 2010 Futures Game.
Lee never played in the major leagues, though he was still active in KBO in his native Korea in 2023.
The key to this deal, of course, was Archer, who went on to have six-plus good years in Tampa Bay. He made two All-Star teams and finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2015. He gave the Rays 13.7 bWAR, though injuries ruined his later career and he was done at age 33.
Fuld made some fantastic catches for the Rays and gave them 2.3 bWAR there, though he didn’t hit much. Guyer had 4.9 bWAR in five years in Tampa Bay. The Rays eventually shipped Chirinos to the Rangers for cash considerations and, 21 years after the Cubs signed him out of Venezuela, he played 45 games for them in 2021, batting .227/.324/.454 and collecting 0.2 bWAR for the North Siders.
Matt Garza was the centerpiece here and, well, he wasn’t terrible. He posted a 3.45 ERA in 60 starts for the Cubs and was worth 5.7 bWAR and was eventually the centerpiece of another deal later on that worked out pretty well. But my singular memory of Garza as a Cub is this play:
If Garza completes that play, he’s got a three-hit, complete-game shutout. He was taken out at that point and Shawn Camp retired the next hitter to complete the game, but... geez, that was one of the worst throws I’ve ever seen a Cub make. The look on his face... priceless.
The Cubs should just be glad they didn’t sign Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract like the Brewers did after the 2013 season. Garza was just awful in Milwaukee, posting a 4.65 ERA in 96 games (93 starts) and that, my friends, was worth -0.7 bWAR.
Oh yes, there were two other players in this deal. Fernando Perez never played for the Cubs and Zac Rosscup posted a 5.32 ERA in 62 relief appearances for the Cubs from 2013-17. He spent the entire 2016 season on the then-disabled list with a shoulder injury so... I suppose he got a World Series ring. He was still active in 2023 for the Spire City Ghost Hounds (no, I did not make that up) of the independent Atlantic League.
January 19: Acquired A.J. Morris, Michael Burgess and Graham Hicks from the Nationals for Tom Gorzelanny
The Nats converted Gorzelanny into (mostly) a reliever and he was pretty good in 2011 and 2012 for them, posting a 3.56 ERA in 75 appearances (16 starts), good for 1.7 bWAR.
Morris pitched briefly in the majors, but not until 2016 with the Reds. The Pirates took him in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft from the Cubs. Burgess and Hicks never played in the major leagues.
Maybe the Cubs could have gotten that out of Gorzelanny if they had kept him.
February 11: Acquired Robert Coello from the Red Sox for Tony Thomas
Coello never pitched for the Cubs and left as a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.
Thomas never played in the major leagues.
This was a nothing deal for both teams.
May 26: Acquired Rodrigo Lopez from the Braves for Ryan Buchter
Lopez had some decent years for the Orioles in the Aughts but by 2011 was pretty much done. He posted a 4.50 ERA in 30 appearances (16 starts) for the Cubs in 2011 and 2012 with -0.2 bWAR.
As I had noted earlier, Buchter wound up being a decent reliever for several teams from 2016-21 with a 3.17 ERA in 284 games, worth 8.8 bWAR. The Braves, though, didn’t get any of that, except for one scoreless inning in 2014.
The Cubs should have just kept Buchter, particularly because he threw lefthanded.
July 28: Acquired Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith from the Indians for Kosuke Fukudome
Fukudome’s pretty good 2008 and 2009 seasons went south in 2010 and by this time in 2011 he was a bench player. He had -0.5 bWAR in Cleveland in 59 games and went 7-for-41 for the 2012 White Sox before returning to his native Japan, where he played TEN more seasons. He was still active in 2022, age 45, playing for his original team, the Chunichi Dragons. In 19 seasons in NPB, Fukudome batted .286/.379/.486 with 285 home runs and 2,952 hits. If only some of that could have translated to MLB.
Neither Abreu nor Smith ever played in the major leagues.
This was Hendry’s final trade as Cubs GM...
December 8: Acquired Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers from the Rockies for DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin
And this was Theo Epstein’s first deal in the newly-created title of President of Baseball Operations and it was a first-class flop.
Stewart, who had put together a couple of decent years in Colorado in 2009 and 2010, had been injured much of 2011, but the Cubs thought he was healthy and could produce. He got off to a terrible start and was batting .201/.292/.335 with five home runs in 55 games when the Cubs suspended him for a Twitter rant:
Stewart spent more than two hours addressing criticism and answering questions on the social media site following his team’s 7-6 win in Oklahoma City over the RedHawks.
At one point, the 28-year-old infielder said Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn’t like him and in another message said the team should just release him.
Stewart took to his account @IAN_Stewart_2sc following Monday’s game. Asked by a fan why he didn’t think he would return to Chicago, Stewart replied, “I think dale Doesn’t like me and He’s Running the show.”
Two weeks later the Cubs gave him his unconditional release.
Meanwhile... well, you know the rest, LeMahieu won three Gold Gloves in Colorado and another with the Yankees, led both the NL and AL in BA, had two Top-4 finishes in MVP voting... need I go on? He’s put together a 31.5 bWAR career and is still active and at leaast a good everyday player, if no longer a star.
Colvin had one good year in Colorado before injuries ended his career.
Casey Weathers never played in the major leagues.
This was a huge whiff by Theo. He should have kept LeMahieu, period.
December 23: Acquired Travis Wood, Ronald Torreyes and Dave Sappelt from the Reds for Sean Marshall
This was not a popular deal at the time because Marshall had been a solid, effective reliever for the Cubs for several seasons. He turned in one good year for the Reds (73 games, 2.51 ERA, 0.8 bWAR), then got injured and was done after 2014. You can see him now occasionally on Marquee Sports Network.
Wood had some good years for the Cubs, including making the NL All-Star team in 2013 when he had a 3.11 ERA and 2.8 bWAR in 32 starts.
Many of you remember him fondly for his hitting prowess — he hit seven home runs for the Cubs and another one in the playoffs vs. the Giants — and for this catch he made when Joe Maddon put him in left field one fateful Sunday night:
And for his famous shirtless appearance at the Cubs World Series celebration:
Man, those were fun times.
Wood had 5.6 bWAR as a pitcher and another 1.8 as a hitter. Dave Sappelt played in 95 games for the Cubs for slight positive bWAR (0.3).
Torreyes appeared to be a throw-in, but he eventually played seven MLB seasons for the Dodgers, Yankees, Twins and Phillies.
In any case, this deal was a good one for the Cubs. But overall it was a negative year because of the disastrous LeMahieu deal. Overall grade: D+
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