Remembering Hall of Fame candidate Fred McGriff's brief Cubs stint

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It's a wonder that Fred McGriff is not already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The lefty-hitting first baseman slugged 493 home runs, racked up 2,490 hits and was a 56.9 fWAR player in 19 MLB seasons. McGriff will have a shot to make it into Cooperstown this year via the Veteran's Committee.

McGriff spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He won a World Series with the Braves in 1995. On July 27, 2001, the Chicago Cubs acquired McGriff in a trade from the Devil Rays, in exchange for pitcher Manny Aybar and a PTBNL (Jason Smith).

Cubs got great production from Fred McGriff, despite his age

This was a pretty big get for the Cubs who, on the day of the trade, were in first place in the NL Central with a solid four-game lead over the Houston Astros. The Cubs had only been to the postseason once over the past decade and had not won a division title since 1989. McGriff was hitting .318/.387/.536 with 19 home runs with the Devil Rays that season and the Cubs got him for so little. Despite him slashing .282/.383/.559 with 12 home runs and 145 OPS+ the rest of the year with the Cubs, the team could not hold onto the division lead and finished third with an 88-74 record. It was a good year for Cubs standards at the time, but not as memorable with no postseason berth.

McGriff would play a full season with the Cubs in 2002, hitting .273/.353/.505 with 30 home runs, an OPS+ of 125 and 2.4 fWAR in 146 games at age 38. Even inching closer to 40, he was still putting up productive numbers. However the 2002 season was truly a season to forget on the North Side. The Cubs finished with a 67-95 record, good for fifth in the NL Central, with only the Milwaukee Brewers finishing below them. Manager Don Baylor was let go mid-season after starting 34-49, with Bruce Kimm taking over as interim manager. Though the season was bad, it did set up for 2003 the next year. Mark Prior made his MLB debut, Moises Alou was signed as a free agent and former Rookie of the Year Kerry Wood was in his prime.

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As for McGriff, he did not stick around long enough to be part of a Cubs postseason team. While his contributions on the North Side were very good, .276/.361/.518 with a 130 OPS+ and 42 home runs in 195 games, he was not brought back and ended up signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers after 2002 was over. It was a shame the Cubs could not win anything meaningful while he was here because he was a darn good contributor for the Cubs and could have his name in Cooperstown. His tenure probably would have been remembered or talked about more had the 2001 Cubs gone to the postseason.