As the first place Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers battle it out at Wrigley Field this weekend, a certain trade between the two teams must be remembered for its significance today.
Back in 2012, the Chicago Cubs were nowhere near the team that they are today. The team finished the season with a record of 61-101, the second-worst in the MLB behind only the Houston Astros.
During the first half of the season (up until the All-Star Game), the Cubs had a record of 33-52, far from playoff contention. Like any other struggling team, the 2012 Cubs decided to trade away any assets possible to improve their team for the future.
In 2012, one of these trades involved starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, who one can argue was the best player on the roster at that time. In 16 starts before getting traded, Dempster was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA. Basically, he was going to bring the Cubs a lot back in return if they decided to trade him.
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The Cubs did in fact trade Dempster, sending him to the Rangers for Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva. Although Villanueva has not debuted yet (he currently is on the 60-day DL), bringing in Hendricks alone made the Cubs the winner of this trade.
Dempster was a 35-year old pitcher when traded, one who was going to hit the market as a free agent after the season ended. Although he was having a fantastic season at the time, things did not exactly translate smoothly for him with the Rangers in the American League.
With the Rangers, Dempster won far more games than he did with the Cubs before the trade, which is not surprising considering he joined a much better team in the Rangers.
In 12 starts after the trade, Dempster went 7-3. While he did have a better overall record with the Rangers, his ERA in those 12 starts was 5.09, a complete flip of the switch from the success he had experienced with the Cubs.
Dempster wound up signing with the Red Sox for 2013, but his decline as a pitcher might have started with the Rangers in 2012. In 32 games (29 starts) with Boston, Dempster had an 8-9 record that was accompanied by a 4.57 ERA. Despite signing a two-year contract, the former Cub decided not to pitch in 2014 and actually announced his retirement that October.
While Dempster struggled after leaving the Cubs, Hendricks has enjoyed plenty success with the Cubs so far, especially in 2016. Since debuting in 2014, Hendricks has had a winning record with a sub 4.00 ERA every season. 2016 may be his best yet, however.
Not only has Hendricks already tied his career-high in wins (eight) through just 17 starts and currently has a 2.41 ERA. As things currently stand, his ERA is third-best in the entire MLB behind only Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner, two of the game’s top starting pitchers.
Essentially, Hendricks is putting together a season that one would expect from a team’s number one starter, not its fifth. No offense to Hendricks, but it seems safe to say that most would have expected Jake Arrieta or even Jon Lester to have the best ERA amongst Cubs’ starters in 2016.
Whether looking at his career with the Cubs as a whole or just his 2016 season, Hendricks has been quite the addition to the organization since he arrived. Although trading Dempster was not easy at the time, having Hendricks on a winning ball club opposed to Dempster on a losing one makes the Cubs the clear winner in this trade.