As Cubs fans, we’ve all heard it. “The Cubs always trade away all their good players.” “Guys always become good after leaving the Cubs.” “Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio.” The phrase “Brock for Broglio” is sometimes used in the sport of baseball to signify a trade that in hindsight, turns out to be an extremely lopsided transaction. Right, because no other team has ever traded away a young player that went on to a Hall of Fame career, right Boston and Jeff Bagwell? Right Detroit and John Smoltz? Funny nobody remembers them, but when it’s the Cubs, well, nobody forgets. Except the Cubs have been on the winning end of some trades too. Here are some you may or may not remember.
Let’s start with the big one. The one that IS remembered, at least in Chicago. Philadelphia would probably like to forget trading Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. Oh and a throw-in that then Cubs GM Dallas Green insisted upon. A young infielder from Spokane, Washington named Ryne Sandberg. Both DeJesus and Bowa were past their primesm but Sandberg had been given up on in the Phillies organization as a career utility infielder with no power. This based on just 13 games with the Phillies where Ryno batted .167 with no home runs in 1981. The Cubs originally wanted Sandberg to play center field, but he started at 3rd base, eventually moving to 2nd base after the Cubs acquired Ron Cey after the 1982 season. Sandberg placed 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1982, hitting .271 with 7 homers, 54 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. But it was 1984 when the legend of Ryno manifested, when he won National League MVP, hitting .314 with 19 homers and 84 RBI, and maybe most impressive, 19 triples playing in Wrigley Field, possibly the hardest park in all of baseball to tally a 3-bagger in. Of course well all remember “The Sandberg Game.” June 23, 1984, NBC national broadcast of the Cubs hosting their rival St. Louis Cardinals. Cubs trailing 9-8 in the 9th, and facing the premier reliever of the time, Bruce Sutter, a familiar face to Cubs fans. Sanberg, not known for his power at the time, homers off Butter to send the game to extra innings. The Cards get 2 in the top of the 10th, and, trailing now by 2, Sandberg steps in against Sutter again, this time with a man on. And Ryno delivers another homer to tie it again! The Cubs went on to win in the 11th. That game propelled Sandberg into national prominence and the Cubs to the N.L. East division title. Sandberg would go on to be the gold standard for second basemen, winning 9 Gold Gloves, being named to 10 All Star Games, retiring with a then-record at second base with 282 home runs., and the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a throw-in.
Everybody knows that story. But do you remember this one? March 30, 1992. The Cubs trade George Bell to the crosstown rival White Sox for a Sammy Sosa. At the time, Sosa was a center fielder/leadoff hitter due to his speed. Sosa struggled in 92, but in 1993, he had his breakout season, with 33 homers and 93 RBI. Well, you know the rest of that story. However you may feel about Sammy now, you can’t deny that you were a Sosa fan in those days. Especially 1998, when he and Mark McGwire had the most interesting home run race of all time, with McGwire hitting 70, but Sosa’s 66 and a Wild Card spot gave him the MVP. Yes, we all know that Sammy, McGwire, and many others were probably not on the up and up. You can think whatever you want to now, but at the time, nobody cared. I personally still don’t, but that’s a topic for another time.
You may have remembered that one too. But how about his one? April 24, 1966. The Cubs acquire Adolfo Phillips, John Herrnstein, and Ferguson Jenkins from the Phillies for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. Maybe the Cubs should deal with the Phillies more often. Fergie reeled off 6 consecutive 20 win seasons including 140 complete games and got the Call to the Hall in 1991. He also won the 1971 Cy Young award in the N.L.
Here’s one you probably never think about. July 23, 2003. The Cubs are in a pennant race. GM Jim Hendry trades Jose Hernandez and 2 other players for Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez. Lofton helped the Cubs get to the playoffs that year, but the jewel of this trade was Ramirez, a young, power-hitting 3rd baseman who would go on to be the Cubs best clutch hitter for a decade. Now his defense was never Gold Glove caliber to say the least, but I always thought he was a little better than he was given credit for. Especially for a team that hadn’t had a long-term answer at the 3rd base position since Ron Santo. That trade settled the position for a decade for the Cubs after 1 year fill-ins like Vance Law and Gary Gaetti. I always thought Ramirez was underrated as a Cub.
November 24, 2003. The Cubs get Derrick Lee from the Marlins for Hee-Soep Choi. I remember reading my Vineline magazine in those days, hearing about how Hee-Soep Choi was going to be the next big thing for the Cubs. He’d been up a little, did very little. Then the Marlins, coming off their World Series, selling the team off as they usually did, sent us Derrick Lee for the Korean prospect. Choi continued to do very little in Florida, and Lee should have been the MVP in 2005 for the Cubs with his 46 homer runs and a .335 batting average. Lee was as as solid as a player as he was a citizen for the Cubs. This trade also showed why you should never fall in love with your prospects.
Only 2 more and they are more modern. January 6, 2012, the Cubs get Anthony Rizzo from the Padres basically for Andrew Cashner. Remember the previous year, Cashner had a great first outing of the season. Then he didn’t make another start that year. Rizzo has become the face of the Cubs. The sky is the limit for Rizzo. His defense has gotten better every year with the Cubs, now reaching Gold Glove caliber. His power has grown and he is the leader, make no mistake, whether he wears the “C” on his uniform or not. Also last but not least, July 2, 2003. The Cubs acquire Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta from Baltimore for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Obviously Jake hadn’t shown much with Baltimore. Whether it was maturity, the change of scenery, the Cubs coaches, or just a case of being a late bloomer, All Jake did was have a historic second half in 2015 on his way to the Cy Young Award, and has still been solid after that. Now, of course Jake is in Philadelphia as a free agent. I understand why he wanted to get paid, and I understand why the Cubs were careful with their money. We don’t need another Carlos Zambrano contract. I get all that, but I can say I will miss Jake’s F you look over that bushy beard on the mound. Some people questioned his Cy Young, citing Zack Greinke and Claytom Kershaw. I will just always remember this about Jake. The Cubs were on a west coast trip in August, and it wasn’t going so well. They dropped 3 of 4 to the team they were competing with for a Wild Card spot, the Giants, and dropped the first 2 games in LA. When you’re the stopper, this is where you step up. And step up Jake did, Sunday night in front of a national audience, no-hitting the Dodgers and righting the ship. Numbers are great an all, but what did you do when your team needed you the most? When the Cubs needed a stopper, an ace, Jake Arrieta stepped up.
There are other trades that can be debated. These are just my favorites. What trades will the Cubs make this year? As it stands now, it looks like they are stacked. But we all know injuries and unexpected performances always happen. And hey, who couldn’t use another reliever?