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: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.