With the trading of Tom Gorzelanny to the Washington Nationals, the Cubs’ off-season for the most part is complete. Sure, they may make a few moves here and there, but no more major moves are expected. When the start of the off-season arrived, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry set out to acquire a front line starting pitcher, a new first baseman, and a veteran reliever. However, Hendry was not given a lot of resources to acquire the things he needed, so it required him to be creative in the deals he made. Well if the Cubs’ off-season proved anything, it proved that Jim Hendry is still one of the most creative General Manager’s in the game today.
Hendry had a patient approach to start the off-season, as he was mainly waiting for the market to set for many of the free agents. Meaning, Hendry was waiting for big name free agents- Cliff Lee, Adam Dunn, and Victor Martinez- to sign, in order for the market to be set for the mid-tier free agents. With the exception of Adam Dunn, many of the free agent first basemen agreed to deals worth $6 million to $10 million. Which is where Carlos Pena fits under, when the Cubs signed him to a one year, $10 million contract at the Winter Meetings. However the thing that was most creative about that deal, was Hendry managed to spread the $10 million out through three years. Pena made $2 million in signing bonuses in 2010, will make $ 3 million in 2011, and will receive the final $5 million of the deal in January of 2012. Many complain that $10 million was too much for a guy that hit .196 last season. They are probably right, but there is a strong chance that Pena’s value during the 2011 season may be worth more than the $10 million the Cubs gave him.
Shortly after the Cubs signed Pena, they diverted their attention to finding a reliever, and a top end starting pitcher. The day after the Winter Meetings, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was at the funeral service for the late Ron Santo. Which is when he was approached by former Cub Kerry Wood about the possibility of Wood returning to the Cubs. Not much needed to be said after that, as in the following week, Wood agreed to a one year, $1.5 million contract to comeback to his beloved Cubs. The $1.5 million deal with the Cubs, was less than half of what Wood was offered from teams such as the White Sox, Yankees, and Red Sox. While the deal may only be for one year, the Cubs and Wood have hinted that he is not leaving the Cubs after the 2011 season.
Perhaps the biggest move for Hendry came on January 8th, when he pulled off a blockbuster trade for Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza. While the Cubs did have to give up top prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld, they now have a pitcher in Matt Garza who has the potential to blossom into their ace. Also it should not be forgotten that Fernando Perez came to the Cubs in the Garza trade as well, and he will likely be the 5th outfielder on the Cubs 25 man roster this season.
Even in Hendry’s latest trade of Tom Gorzelanny to the Washington Nationals for three prospects in Michael Burgess, A.J. Morris, and Graham Hicks, Hendry is believed to have made a good deal. As FanGraphs points out that the Cubs return for Gorzelanny was much better than what they originally gave to the Pirates for Gorzelanny, as well as middle reliever John Grabow.
And to those that keep insisting the Cubs will trade Kosuke Fukudome before the season starts, stop. The Cubs have tried to trade Fukudome, but there are no takers. The Cubs are resigned to the fact that Fukudome will be with them to start the season, and may see some time as the leadoff hitter.
But, all in all it was an excellent off-season for the Chicago Cubs. Because in every move they made, they were perceived to be making a good deal. Especially in the Kerry Wood deal, who took a deal that was extremely below market value. As well as in the Matt Garza trade, as none of the prospects the Cubs traded were projected to turn out to be stars according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Which for me, results into an A for Jim Hendry and his efforts this off-season.
Now, time to let your voice be heard, What grade would you give the Cubs for their off-season moves?