Chicago Cubs: A look at the deals that took us from worst to first

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Last week’s trade of Matt Harvey has reclamation projects on the brain. What are some of the best moves made in Chicago Cubs history that might fit the bill?

The New York Mets dealt right-hander Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds after injury and poor performance convinced them their Dark Knight was done.  After four innings of shut-out, one hit baseball, could Harvey go from New York’s Dark Knight to Cincinnati’s Red Baron?

That got me to wondering if there had been any Chicago Cubs players who experienced a resurgence after calling the North Side home.

My list isn’t all-inclusive so your thoughts and comments are welcome.  The criteria is pretty simple.  A down year(s) or injury convinces the former team to part ways with a player who later goes on to power a Cubs team.  So, in chronological order:

Close – but no cigar

More from Cubbies Crib

Dave Kingman 1978 to 1980

Before being acquired by  the Cubs in 1978, Kingman spent 1977 bouncing between four teams –the Mets, Padres, Angels and Yankees.  His career a wreck, the Cubs picked up the free agent and he became a two-time All-Star and came in eleventh in MVP voting in 1979.

That year, Kingman smacked 49 home runs, driving in 115 on the season and leading the league with a .956 OPS. He didn’t lead the  Cubs to the playoffs, and did not patrol left field with deftness, but his moonshot home runs were fun to watch.

A pair of standout hurlers

Rick Sutcliffe 1984 to 1991

Former Cubs GM Dallas Green spun trade, free agent and draft pick magic when he took over in 1981. The players he acquired helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs in 1984 and 1989.  The Cubs own Red Baron, Rick Sutcliffe, had pitched seven seasons for the Dodgers and Indians.

By 1984 the Indians clearly read into his increasing ERA and WHIP in 1983 and 1984 as the beginning of the end.  They traded Sutcliffe to the Cubs and the rest we know: Cy Young in 1984, second in Cy Young voting in 1987, and the 1987 and 1989 All-Star teams.

He led the Cubs to the playoffs in 1984 and 1989, coming within one ball through Leon Durham’s legs of the World Series in 1984.

Dennis Eckersley 1984 to 1986

Another Dallas Green move brought the longtime Boston starter to Chicago.  Boston also saw the righthander’s increasing ERA and WHIP as the start of a decline for the 29-yea-old veteran.

Once in Cubbie blue he posted a low-3.00 ERA in both 1984 and 1985 and an .0969 WHIP in 1985.  Too bad the Cubs traded him right before the 1987 season, as he had his best years ahead out of the bullpen with Oakland.

Some familiar names from recent years

Anthony Rizzo 2012 to present

We all know the story here.  Theo drafted Rizzo and later traded him to the Padres but never forgot him and sent an oft-injured Andrew Cashner to the Padres in trade.  San Diego probably looked at Rizzo’s Darwin Barney-like numbers in 2011 and thought they had the best end of this deal.  And the rest, as they say, is history still bring made.

Justin Grimm 2013 to 2017

Theo and the gang’s second year at the helm of the Cubs proved pivotal.

Justin Grimm came to the Cubs in a multiplayer deal that included Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Olt for Matt Garza.  Grimm’s ERA and WHIP in Texas made him the throw-in; Mike Olt was the big name.  Grimm went on to play a key part of the 2016 Cubs team that eventually won the World Series.

Jake Arrieta 2013 to 2017

Again what don’t we know here.  Cy Young, All-Star and Silver Slugger. And oh yeah, a World Series ring.  Like with Matt Harvey, the Orioles had given up on their 2007 fifth round pick, and, like Grimm, was the throw in player in the four-player deal that send Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the O’s for Pedro Strop and Arrieta.

Next: Cubs treading water away from Wrigley this season

We learned later that Arrieta’s frustrations in Baltimore had almost led him to quit the game. Instead, he turned into one of the most lethal starting pitchers in all of baseball.