Chicago Cubs: The Hendry era
Midway through the 2002 season, Jim Hendry took over as the man in Chicago, accepting the title of general manager. The season was another sideways affair, as the Cubs finished 67-95 under a combination of Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann and Bruce Kimm.
A few months into his tenure, the team traded Bill Mueller to the San Francisco Giants for Jeff Verplancke. It would be a move that came back to haunt the Cubs. A couple of years after the trade, the Boston Red Sox acquired Mueller. Over the course of his Red Sox tenure, Mueller posted a .303/.378/.474 slash line, with a .370 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Oops, Cubs.
The following year, the Cubs bounced back in a big way. They finished 88-74, winning the National League Central division. It would also be the painful year of Steve Bartman, and the year it almost happened. A significant move that season of Hendry’s that will always be looked at as one of his best, the team traded for 3B Aramis Ramirez. Over the course of his tenure, Ramirez slashed .294/.356/.531 with a .887 OPS, .377 wOBA, a 126 wRC+, and a 25.1 WAR. A remarkable Cubs career.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
Across the next few years, between 2004-2006, the Cubs had one great, one average and one horrendous season. The offseasons consisted of signing veteran free-agents with the hope that they would be producers for the team. Most, however, would be nothing but a temporary placeholder for the time.
The team brought back Greg Maddux in that stretch, in his age 38 season. Glendon Rusch is another name who comes to mind. While certainly not as aged out as Maddux was, Rusch did not bring much production in his time with the Cubs. Rusch’s best season for the Cubs consisted of a 3.47 ERA. His worst, a 7.46 ERA.
A fairly significant trade that happened under the Hendry regume is the acquisition of former Red Sox slugger Nomar Garciaparra for a brief period. It was part of a four-team trade. In his time with the Cubs, Garciaparra played 105 games. He slashed a modest .289/.339/.453 line with a .792 OPS. He posted a .343 wOBA and 104 wRC+.
The team continued to sign aging veteran free-agents. They also continued to trade veterans on the roster. Longtime Cubs legend Sammy Sosa found himself traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the offseason before the 2005 campaign.. The team signed guys like LaTroy Hawkins, Jeromy Burnitz, Neifi Perez, and Brian Boehringer, who was ultimately released
The most significant free-agent move in the Hendry era was the signing of Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract. Soriano did not live up to the billing for the Cubs. He slashed .264/.317/.495 with a .346 wOBA and a barely above-average 109 wRC+. He also posted a 22.4 percent strikeout rate.
Concerning the draft moves made under Hendry, many bright spots and positives are stemming from the period. Under Hendry, the team signed Starlin Castro as an amateur free-agent and drafted Josh Donaldson, Sonny Gray and DJ LeMahieu.
Hendry signed Willson Contreras and Jeimer Candelario and drafted Javier Baez. Certainly, a handful of up-and-down seasons, mixed with three division titles and a trip to the NLCS. However things were about to change, and Chicago Cubs would go from an average baseball team to one of the best clubs in baseball.