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Guest Column: Bryan Smith Looks at Hendry
by alex ciepley
Bryan Smith, who as an All-Baseball labelmate runs Wait 'Til Next Year, is doing a two-part series analyzing GM Jim Hendry's trades since he took over running the show. The first part is here, the second part is over at his site. Many thanks to Bryan for providing this to us at TCR. And hey, he quotes me in his article! How very meta...
This is a two-part article evaluating Jim Hendry as a trader. Here at TCR, I will evaluate the Major League moves that Hendry has made, covering the minor league players at ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year’.
"It’s a different era in Cubs baseball. When opportunity knocks, the Cubs are making moves that improve the team. Grudzielanek, Karros, Lofton, Ramirez, Walker, Barrett, Lee, Hawkins, Maddux, and now, Garciaparra. The amount of talent that Hendry has brought into the club in the past year and half, and the wisdom he’s shown in letting pieces like Karros, Simon, and Lofton go once they’ve done their part, is staggering."
- Alex Ciepley (The Cup Reporter- 8/3/04)
Days before developing the idea for this article, I told a friend Jim Hendry was one of baseball’s top five GMs. The other four? Scheurholtz, Beane, Sabean and Cashman. This is extremely high praise for Hendry, still working in his second full season of work. Alex’s above quote, coupled with Jay Jaffe’s recent Yankee breakdown on Prospectus, led me to wonder how good ‘Hendry the Dealer’ is.
Jim Hendry was officially named General Manager on July 5, 2002, interestingly enough the same day that Bruce Kimm was named Don Baylor’s successor. Let’s just say that one worked out, and the other…not so much. After spending two months dumping veterans, the Tribune Company’s focus was centered on a comeback 2003. And come back the Cubs did, winning the NL Central en route to one helluva playoff run. Ever since, Hendry has remained a buyer, and Nomar’s deal was his 20th as the GM.
Below are the 19 previous trades that Hendry has made, in which at least one named player was traded to each team. Before reading the list I tried to name all of them, landing 12. Try it. The list, starting with the most recent:
1. Acquired Andrew Shipman, PTBNL from Boston Red Sox for Jimmy Anderson (7/2/04)
2. Acquired Gookie Dawkins from Kansas City Royals for Damian Jackson (6/1/04)
3. Acquired Jon Connolly, PTBNL from Detroit Tigers for Felix Sanchez (4/29/04)
4. Acquired Andy Pratt, Richard Lewis from Atlanta Braves for Juan Cruz, Steve Smyth (3/25/04)
5. Acquired Jose Macias from Montreal Expos for Wilton Chavez (12/19/03)
6. Acquired Michael Barrett from Oakland A’s for Damian Miller (12/16/04)
7. Acquired Derrek Lee from Florida Marlins for Hee Seop Choi and Mike Nannini (11/25/03)
8. Acquired Tony Womack from Colorado Rockies for Enmanuel Ramirez (8/19/03)
9. Acquired Randall Simon from Pittsburgh Pirates for Ray Sadler (8/16/03)
10. Acquired Doug Glanville from Texas Rangers for Jason Fransz (7/30/03)
11. Acquired Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez from Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback, Bobby Hill (7/22/03)
12. Acquired Jose Hernandez from Colorado Rockies for Mark Bellhorn, Travis Anderson (6/19/03)
13. Acquired Mark Grudzielanek, Eric Karros from Los Angeles Dodgers for Todd Hundley, Chad Hermanson (12/4/02)
14. Acquired Paul Bako from Milwaukee Brewers for Ryan Gripp (11/26/02)
15. Acquired Damian Miller from Arizona Diamondbacks for David Noyce, Gary Johnson (11/13/02)
16. Acquired Jeff Verplancke from San Francisco Giants for Bill Mueller (9/3/02)
17. Acquired Jared Blasdell, Jason Karnuth from St. Louis Cardinals for Jeff Fassero (8/25/02)
18. Acquired Travis Anderson, Mike Nannini, Russ Rohlicek from Houston Astros for Tom Gordon (8/22/02)
19. Acquired Chad Hermanson from Pittsburgh Pirates for Darren Lewis (7/31/02)
A lot of the players that Hendry trade fall into certain categories. First, he often trades minor leaguers he once acquired, as evidenced by Chad Hermanson, Travis Anderson and Mike Nannini. Second, the Cubs are quick to trade veterans that don’t have a future with the club, like Darren Lewis, Todd Hundley, Jose Hernandez, and most recently, Alex Gonzalez. Like many GMs, Hendry is happy to trade from his surplus, like the deals of Matt Bruback or Wilton Chavez. Last, and perhaps the most concerning, is the obvious role Dusty Baker plays on the trade market.
There have been numerous examples in Hendry’s past that indicate that Baker’s approval is a necessity for young Cubs. Mark Bellhorn was traded because Dusty didn’t trust him at the hot corner, the same with Bobby Hill at second a month later. While I will get more into the Derrek Lee trade later, it is safe to say Cub fans were a bit concerned on how quick the Cubs pulled the trigger on Big Choi. This spring, we saw Juan Cruz dealt off the ‘Baker hit list’. And most recently, we’ve seen the separate trades of Felix Sanchez, Brendan Harris and Francis Beltran, all of whom didn’t make great first impressions. For better or worse, this is simply the price we pay for having Baker.
To assess how well the Cubs did in these trades, I have chosen to use the Bill James creation Win Shares. If you’re not familiar with the statistic, I would recommend this article, written by the Hardball Times WS keeper, Studes. Basically, Win Shares are a complicated stat where each ‘share’ represents 1/3 of a win. Below are the Win Shares of all the veterans the Cubs have dealt or acquired. The right column contains the Win Shares of all the Hendry acquisitions during their stint with the Cubs. As for the left column, this has the players Hendry traded away, with their Win Shares after leaving the Cubs, but while under the same contract status they left with.
NAME WS NAME WS Gordon 2 Miller 10 Fassero 2 Bako 5 Mueller 0 Grudz 22 Hundley 2 Karros 8 Bellhorn 14 Jose H. 1 Hill 4 Lofton 9 Choi 14 Ramirez 24 Miller 12 Simon 5 Cruz 4 Womack 1 Jose H. 2 Lee 15 Barrett 11 Macias 3 ----------------------------- TOTAL 56 114
The difference between the two, 58 win shares, represents a total of 19.3 extra wins. It should be noted that after their contracts ran out, both Tom Gordon and Bill Mueller had some very successful seasons. But the Cubs weren’t planning on recruiting either player, so getting anything for them is respectable. In fact, for Gordon, the Cubs landed a few pieces in Travis Anderson and Mike Nannini that would help in later trades.
What I found shocking from this chart was that Mark Bellhorn is currently Hendry’s worst trade. This is the key example of what scares me the most of the Cubs front office: Dusty Baker. His presence as a manager is daunting, so much so that it obviously prohibits Jim Hendry for building a team on his intuitions. Baker must start accepting young players for what they are, raw talents, rather than expected an already-polished gem. Furthermore, Jim Hendry has to shy away from being intimidated by his manager, as it seems his executive decisions have built not one (2003), but two (2004) championship contenders.
Another shocking fact, in my mind, is that Damian Miller is currently outperforming new Cub fans favorite, Michael Barrett. While Barrett’s offensive numbers are a little superior, Miller has two extra Win Shares on defense. I think Miller was a bit underappreciated by Cub fans last season, who were so quick to applaud a pitching staff that surely was getting some help from behind the plate. But what the Hell is up with his offensive breakout? Well, it could likely be attributed to a LD% (Line Drive %) of .228. This leads all Athletic players, and as Studes has proved, is the least volatile of the batted ball types.
In addition to the above table, I will offer to Hendry critics a few "What If" scenarios. By my count, the Cubs have seven players that could be filled by older players, if not for the team’s wheeling and dealing. I asked myself, how many Win Shares would be gained/lost if we had kept Bill Mueller? Bellhorn? Choi? Damian Miller? Tom Gordon? Juan Cruz? To do so, I have compared those players to Aramis Ramirez, Todd Walker, Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, LaTroy Hawkins, and Glendon Rusch, respectively. This just includes 2004 Win Shares, fittingly ignoring good 2003 seasons by Mueller and Gordon.
BATTLE WS + or - Mueller v. Ramirez 10 Bellhorn v. Walker -3 Choi v. Lee 1 Miller v. Barrett -1 Gordon v. Hawkins -3 Cruz v. Rusch 0 --------------------------- TOTAL 4
After the 58 Win Shares above, I was shocked to see the Cubs only gained four here. The Walker/Bellhorn spread is much worse than I would have thought, especially given Walker’s near-AS play in the first half. While many have complained of the Juan Cruz trade, it gave Glendon Rusch a spot, and we landed a good 2B prospect that I will talk about in part two. The Mueller/Ramirez spread is favored in the Cubs direction because Bill missed significant time. If you factored in Kevin Youkilis’ five win shares, the spread drops to 5, and the overall total -1.
In reality, the only move I regret is losing Tom Gordon, who has gone on to be such a force in the White Sox and Yankees’ bullpens. Re-signing him after the 2002 season would have saved a lot of stress that Antonio Alfonseca and LaTroy Hawkins have brought over the last two seasons. Aramis’ power is much more appreciated than Mueller’s solid play, and the injury this year may have been catastrophic. But, I guess we had our hot corner catastrophes last year, didn’t we Lenny Harris?
Finally, I want to talk about the Derrek Lee for Hee Seop Choi trade. In the comments of Ruz’s post on the Lee trade last November, it seemed Ruz, Mannytrillo and myself were two of the loudest proponents of the trade. The opposite side said the trade was "horrible", with one saying, "...when Hee Seop Choi becomes Jim Thome with a glove Hendry/Baker will have some serious egg on their face." While Choi proponents were likely bragging after April, Lee has turned it on since then, inching over Choi in the most recent Win Share updates. Choi still looks like a platoon player, while Lee will be a prime-time Cub until after the 2006 season. Oh yeah, and by then, Brian Dopirak should be just about ready.
Overall, I hope to have proven that Hendry has done nothing but help this team. The most telling table is the first one, showing a 58 Win Shares difference between who we have traded, and who we have acquired. Never afraid to make a deal, Hendry should be given the Executive of the Year Award in 2004, after the Cubs make the playoffs.
Obviously, minor leaguers factor into this situation as well, and I will tackle them at my site. I won’t be available for comments much this weekend, but will answer any questions if e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.