Jim Hendry, Kenny Williams

The best and worst from Cubs GM Jim Hendry

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A look at the highlights and lowlights from Jim Hendry’s nine-year tenure as Cubs GM, which ended with his dismissal on Friday.

Best moves

July 23, 2003: Acquired 3B Aramis Ramirez and OF Kenny Lofton from Pirates for 2B Bobby Hill, INF Jose Hernandez and RHP Matt Burback

I called it “highway robbery” on Rotoworld at the time, and it proved to be that and so much more.   The Pirates gave away Ramirez even though he had just turned 25 and he was hitting a solid .280/.330/.448 for the season.  He’s hit 236 homers for the Cubs since.

Nov. 25, 2003: Acquired 1B Derrek Lee from Marlins for 1B Hee-Seop Choi and RHP Mike Nannini

On the other hand, I slammed this one, believing Choi was just about as good as Lee already.  Lee went on to make two All-Star Games and hit 179 homers in seven seasons with the Cubs.

Jan. 21, 2004: Signed RHP Ryan Dempster to one-year, $500,000 contract with a $2 million option for 2005

The Cubs took a chance on Dempster as he was rehabbing following Tommy John surgery.  He rewarded them with a fine season as a closer in 2005, and while he wasn’t such a good reliever the two years after that, he’s won 53 games as a starter the last four seasons.

Nov. 14, 2006: Signed infielder Mark DeRosa to a three-year, $13 million contract

This is another move I was none too impressed with at the time.  However, DeRosa had two fine seasons as a Cub, hitting .289/.373/.451 with 31 homers, and the team was then able to trade him to Cleveland for three prospects, one of whom, Chris Archer, proved to be the key component in last winter’s deal to land Matt Garza.

Worst moves

I’m listing the moves that were pretty obviously poor at the time, in my opinion.  I didn’t mind the Carlos Zambrano extension, and I’m not going to get on Hendry’s case for the prearranged trade in the Rule 5 draft that had Josh Hamilton passing through Chicago on his way from Tampa Bay to Cincinnati.

Dec. 7, 2005: Acquired OF Juan Pierre from Marlins for RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Sergio Mitre and LHP Renyel Pinto

The Cubs made three significant trades with the Marlins in the first half of the decade.  The Lee deal worked out great, but the Pierre trade was a bust and sending Dontrelle Willis to Florida for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca could have turned out even worse if Willis didn’t fall apart.  The ugly thing about the Pierre deal is that he was just one year away from free agency, yet the Cubs gave up three live arms for him anyway.  He had a typical Pierre season and then signed with the Dodgers.

Nov. 20, 2006: Signed outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract

It was the second biggest deal ever given to an outfielder, behind Manny Ramirez’s contract with Boston, and even five years later, it stands at No. 3 on the list.  Soriano started the eight-year pact out with two fine seasons, but he’s been at best an average regular since and there’s still three more years to go.

Dec. 31, 2008: Signed infielder Aaron Miles to a two-year, $4.9 million contract

I picked this one over the Neifi Perez infatuation.  Miles ended up playing in 74 games for the Cubs and hitting .185/.224/.242 with a remarkable five RBI.

Jan. 9, 2009: Signed outfielder Milton Bradley to a three-year, $30 million contract

Bradley was coming off an exceptional season with the Rangers, but it was one in which he had his usual problems staying healthy even while serving primarily as a DH.  Bradley turned out to be a disaster with the Cubs, hitting .257 and driving in 40 runs in his one year with the team before being dealt for an even worse contract (Seattle’s Carlos Silva).

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In my opinion, it was long past time for Hendry to go.  He had some good instincts when it came to players to pursue on the cheap, but when he was given money to spend, he typically did so unwisely and his drafts were often disappointing.  In fact, not one of his first- or supplemental first-round picks has turned into an asset yet, and for a GM on the job for nine years, that’s pretty damning.

I think Hendry might have been better off as the GM of a small-market team (preferably with better scouting directors).  There would have been no Soriano, Bradley or Kosuke Fukudome.  Forced to limit his expendatures, Hendry might have come up with more Dempsters, DeRosas and Marlon Byrds.  It’s not that his tenure was a total disaster, but the Cubs job probably wasn’t ever the right one for him.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.