Grading Jim Hendry's Big Moves

ST. LOUIS, MO: Alfonso Soriano #12 of the Chicago Cubs hits a three-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Nine years is a long time for a general manager, and Jim Hendry made a number of significant moves between getting promoted to GM during the 2002 season. Here's a quick take on most of the big moves he made, with an attempt (however fruitless) to remain objective on this most subjective of days ...

December 4, 2002: Traded Todd Hundley to Dodgers for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros
Hundley was making a ridiculous amount of money with the Cubs. Grudzielanek and Karros were both supposedly overpaid as well, which made this a sort of challenge trade. Hendry won big, as Hundley was finished while both Grudzielanek and Karros played well for the Cubs in 2003.
Grade: A

July 23, 2003: Traded Matt Bruback, Jose Hernandez and (later) Bobby Hill to Pirates for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton
Ramirez had never really played to his potential in Pittsburgh -- that was the perception, anyway -- but of course he came into his own with the Cubs, while none of the players who went to the Pirates did much of anything afterward.
Grade: A

November 25, 2003: Traded Mike Nannini and Hee-Seop Choi to Marlins for Derrek Lee
Choi was a sabermetrician's darling but never developed at all, while Lee gave the Cubs three excellent seasons and three good ones.
Grade: A

July 31, 2004: Traded Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris to the Expos and Justin Jones to the Twins and received Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton.
Sort of a nothing deal, as Garciaparra couldn't stay healthy and productive at that point in his career, and none of the other players covered themselves in glory afterward.
Grade: C

February 2, 2005: Traded Sammy Sosa to the Orioles for Dave Crouthers, Mike Fontenot and Jerry Hairston
Turning Sosa -- who'd gone from hero to goat in about three seconds -- into Fontenot and Hairston, both of them moderately useful players, has to seem like something of a coup.
Grade: B

February 9, 2005: Traded Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Bo Flowers (minors), Scott Moore and Roberto Novoa.
Farnsworth was hitting free agency a year later and coming off an unimpressive 2004, but none of the players Hendry got in this deal ever did anything for the Cubs (or anyone else).

December 27, 2005: Traded Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto to the Marlins for Juan Pierre.
Mitre's still kicking around, but hasn't been missed in Chicago. Ricky Nolasco has been cheap and effective for most of the last six seasons. Pierre did play well for the Cubs in 2006, then left as a free agent.
Grade: D

November 12, 2006: Signed Free Agent Aramis Ramirez for 5 years, $75 million
Ramirez missed half of 2009 with an injury and was ineffective in 2010. But he's played well enough in the other seasons to justify most of that $75 million. The biggest problem with the contract was Ramirez's ability to veto a trade, if the opportunity came up.
Grade: B

November 20, 2006: Signed Free Agent Alfonso Soriano for 8 years, $126 million
What were the chances that this one would turn out well? Soriano was coming off a fantastic season with the Nationals, but it was the best season of his career and he was almost 31. A four-year contract might have made sense. Or five, or perhaps even six. But eight years?
Grade: D (with great potential for F)

December 6, 2006: Signed Free Agent Ted Lilly for 4 years, $40 million
Lilly was well worth the $40 million, and it's just a shame that Hendry didn't get more talent when he traded Lilly to the Dodgers last summer.
Grade: B+

December 7, 2006: Traded Josh Hamilton to the Cincinnati Reds for cash.
Yes, Josh Hamilton was a Chicago Cub for a New York minute. Hendry selected Hamilton in the Rule 5 Draft on Pearl Harbor Day, and immediately sold him to the Reds. Whoops.
Grade: F

August 17, 2007: Signed pitcher Carlos Zambrano for 5 years, $91.5 million (extension)
Considering that Zambrano's got a 3.96 ERA since the contract kicked in and he's twice been suspended for ill behavior, I think you'll have to agree that this one hasn't worked out real well. And of course there's still another whole season on this contract, which the Cubs will probably try to get out of paying but probably won't be able to. For the Cubs' next GM, Zambrano's contract -- like Soriano's -- will be the gift that just keeps on giving.
Grade: C-

December 12, 2007: Signed Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome for 4 years, $48 million
Plenty of teams wanted Kosuke, but the Cubs got him. Semi-disastrously, as it turned out. Fukudome, who'd shown great all-around hitting skills in Japan, never displayed those talents consistently in the major leagues, and wound up as a part-time player before going to the Indians last month. Hindsight's 20/20, but ...
Grade: C-

November 18, 2008: Signed free agent pitcher Ryan Dempster for 4 years, $52 million
Hey, there are 162 games every season and someone has to start them. At the rate Dempster's going, he'll be worth almost exactly $52 million by the time his contract expires after next season. By no means a bargain but worth every penny, at least to a contending team.
Grade: B

January 9, 2009: Signed free agent Milton Bradley for 3 years, $30 million
Bradley was coming off a season with the Rangers in which he'd actually led the American League in OPS+. Of course, he'd also been injured (as usual) and had served primarily as the Rangers' Designated Hitter ... a role which would rarely be available with the Cubs. Somewhat predictably, the contract was a disaster as Bradley's hitting fell off a cliff and he couldn't stay healthy. After just one season, Hendry traded Bradley to the Mariners for their disastrous contract (Carlos Silva), which did work out slightly in the Cubs' favor.
Grade: F

December 31, 2009: Signed free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd for 3 years, $15 million
This wasn't actually a big deal, money-wise. And even at that, when it happened I thought Hendry had slightly overpaid for a veteran coming off his best season. It's worked out wonderfully, though.
Grade: A

December 12, 2010: Signed free agent first baseman Carlos Peña for 1 year, $10 million
Considering Peña's .196 batting average in 2010, this was something of a gamble. But it's paid off reasonably well, unless you think $10 million for an average first baseman on a non-contending team is extravagant.
Grade: B-

Conclusions? Like a lot of GMs, Hendry seemed to fare better when making small deals than large ones. His trades generally worked out pretty well, and so did some of his smaller free-agent signings. But when given huge amounts of money to play with, he overreached, particularly with the Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano contracts. Of course, we don't know if ownership (for example) demanded that he spend whatever it took to sign Soriano.

We do know that the Cubs have spent a great deal of money under Hendry, and made the playoffs three times but are now mired in fifth place for a second straight season. And it probably didn't have to turn out this way.

Did I miss any big deals worth grading? If so, please add to the discussion in the comments. There's room for everyone!

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