The Rundown: Cubs Have Historically Made Puzzling Trades, All Ex-Cubs Team, Márquez Rising Star, Brantley Spurns Jays for Astros

Jed Hoyer isn’t the first executive to trade or release fan favorites while those players were in or just ahead of their prime years. In fact, you could build a veritable juggernaut of ex-Cubs while you wallow in the dreariness of the players received in return for those moves. It just hurts a little more right now because Hoyer still has several more moves to make and we still don’t know what the 2021 team will look like.

Older fans of Chicago’s North Side baseball team are always happy to remind you of the Lou Brock trade, while newer fans are usually triggered by Theo Epstein’s decision to trade DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies in 2011. Some moves that seem reasonable, or even promising, at the time don’t age well as what looks good on paper often loses its luster once things play out over time.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what an all ex-Cubs team might look like. Just for fun, I’ll note the returns. Alas, I cannot prove the reasoning behind many of the moves outside of acknowledging that sometimes smart people do dumb things.

  1. Kyle Schwarber, LF – As you are painfully aware, Schwarber was non-tendered in a salary cutting move because it was believed a market did not exist for him. The Cubs might have been on the hook for $7-9 million in arbitration and Schwarber signed a deal with the Nationals worth at least $10 million.
  2. Bill North, CF – North had played just two seasons in Chicago when he was traded to the A’s for Bob Locker in 1972. The center fielder had a solid 10-year career after leaving the Friendly Confines and led the AL in stolen bases twice, including in 1976 when he swiped 76 bags. Locker won 10 games for the Cubs before being traded back to the A’s for Horacio Pina in ’76. The journeyman starter was then traded back to the Cubs in 1975 when Billy Williams was dealt to Oakland.
  3. Lou Brock, RF – The Hall of Fame outfielder mostly played left and center field, but he manned right for the Cubs. The six-time All-Star batted .293 with 938 stolen bases and also had 290 extra base hits, 1,610 runs scored, and 900 RBI over his storied 19-year career. Fans thought the Cubs robbed the Cardinals by acquiring starter Ernie Broglio, among others, in 1964. The right-hander finished third in Cy Young voting in ’60 and was tabbed to lead Chicago’s rotation, though he won just seven games with a 5.40 ERA over parts of three seasons before retiring with arm trouble.
  4. Bill Madlock, 3B – A perennial all-star and on-base machine, Mad Dog led the league in hitting four times and finished with a career .305 batting average. Believe it or not, he also stole 174 bases in a 15-year career in which he notched 2008 base hits. Madlock was traded to the Giants in 1977, along with Rob Sperring, for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros.
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS – The Cubs got two months of Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and their first World Series championship in 108 years in exchange for Torres, so it’s hard to argue this trade. Torres had a poor 2020 season, but was worth 6.6 WAR in his first two seasons with the Yankees.
  6. DJ Lemahieu, 2B – Ouch. Epstein traded LeMahieu and outfielder Tyler Colvin to the Rockies for Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart in 2011. The second baseman is a career .305 hitter with decent pop and has earned three Gold Gloves in his 10-year career. Stewart finished his Cubs career with 202 PAs, hitting .201 with five home runs. Weathers never made it to the bigs.
  7. Rafael Palmeiro, 1B – Despite what you think of Palmeiro as a person, he put up some monster numbers. His career .288 career batting average was punctuated by 569 home runs and 1,835 RBI, mostly with the Rangers and Orioles. The first baseman was part of a 8-player trade that sent closer Mitch Williams to the Cubs in 1988.
  8. Josh Donaldson, C – The three-time All-Star and former AL MVP was a catcher in Chicago’s minor league system when he was traded to the A’s in 2008 as part of a deal that brought starter Rich Harden to the Cubs. Donaldson hit 111 taters with 300 RBI From 2015-17, while Harden won just 14 games in two seasons with the North Siders.
  9. Greg Maddux, SP – He wasn’t traded or released, but a disagreement over his worth led him to sign with the Braves as a free agent in 1993. That’s where the Hall of Fame starter won the bulk of his 355 wins, notching four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95.
  10. Fergie Jenkins, SP – The Cubs traded Jenkins to the Rangers in 1973 for Madlock and Vic Harris. Jenkins had won 20 or more games for six consecutive seasons before slumping in ’73, when he won just 14 despite solid peripherals. In his first season with Texas, Jenkins won 25 games while pitching 328.1 innings, finishing second in Cy Young voting and fifth in the AL MVP race. Harris had a very nondescript career with the Cubs and finished his career with a .217 BA.
  11. Lee Smith, CL -“Sleepy” Lee Smith notched 180 saves for Chicago before he was dealt to the Red Sox in 1987 for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi. Smith had a Hall of Fame career, Nipper and Schiraldi did not.
  12. Ángel Pagán, UT – The all-purpose Pagán was traded to the Mets in 2007 for two minor league players after just two seasons with the Cubs. The outfielder earned 18 WAR over a strong 11-year career.

Cubs News & Notes

On Deck

A lot of folks are excited about shortstop prospect Cristian Hernandez, and rightly so.

Thursday Stove

Michael Brantley spurned the Blue Jays and decided to return to the Astros, who inked the outfielder to a two-year deal worth $32 million. At one point yesterday, Brantley to Toronto was all but confirmed.

Catcher Jason Castro is also returning to the Astros,  where he started his professional career. Castro received a two-year deal from Houston worth a reported $7 million.

The Twins bolstered their rotation by signing free agent starter J.A. Happ.

The Dodgers are monitoring the progress of free agent starter Trevor Bauer, which is a carefully-worded way of saying they’re ready to pounce if his market starts to drop.

Toronto may play its home games in Tampa Bay, at least to start the season.

Extra Innings

This young man has a promising future with an “80-grade” fastball.

They Said It

  • “We’re really excited about Cristian Hernandez. It kind of goes back to when we acquired Jorge Soler and Gleyber Torres and some of the other big names that we acquired [in the international market]. He has that type of upside. He’s a guy that can impact the game in a lot of ways. Really impressive power. He can run. We project him to play shortstop. He’s just one of the more dynamic, high-upside players we’ve acquired in a long time and we’re really excited to work with him.”– VP of player development Matt Dorey

Thursday Walk Up Song

The Future’s So Bright by Timbuk3 – At least the Cubs’ minor league system is trending upward.

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