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