WTNYAugust 13, 2004
Hendry (Part 2)
By Bryan Smith

The first half of this article can be found at the Cub Reporter.

Trading for Nomar Garciaparra was far and away the most heroic move in recent memory of General Managers. There is no question the time is now, that the Cubs have World Series aspirations this year. But we still cant help worrying about who we gave away, and what they will become.

While evaluating past deals wont give us the crystal ball reading, it can tell us if Jim Hendry and cabinet identify suitable players to trade. In part one, I established that Hendry has done nothing but help this team, on the Major League level. This is obviously job #1 for GMs, though the farm system should never be undervalued. The effect a farm system can have on a Major League club is sensationally large, as witnessed by the success of the Atlanta Braves.

Rather than reprint a list of the 19 pre-Nomar Hendry trades, I thought to give the names of just the minor leaguers that were traded away, along with their accompanying 2004 statistics:

David Noyce: out of baseball?
Gary Johnson: .244/.338/.366 in 262 AAA AB
Ryan Gripp: out of baseball?
Travis Anderson: 0-1 7.25 25/22.1 14K/15BB 7HR (AA)
Matt Bruback: 1-8 5.84 85/69.1 49/30 7 (AAA) AND 4-1 3.88 53/48.2 54/21 4 (AA)
Jason Fransz: .257/.325/.441 in 136 low-A AB
Ray Sadler: .268/.310/.487 in 351 AA AB
Emmanuel Ramirez: 3-5 3.47 39/57 61/36 2 (AA)
Mike Nannini: 7-7 5.34 132/121.1 85/34 26 (AAA)
Wilton Chavez: 5-10 4.25 142/137.2 96/36 16 (AAA)
Steve Smyth: 4-3 5.34 59/60.2 42/44 11 (AA)
Felix Sanchez: 2-2 7.24 18/13.2 12/6 2 (AA)

No real incriminating names here, obviously none have come up on prospect lists recently. Two of the 12 are out of baseball, three have since changed teams, and all but three are failing miserably. At first glance, this is a great sign for Hendry, who is becoming a better GM with every word I write.

First, let's deal with the three who aren't doing pathetic: Ray Sadler, Emmanuel Ramirez and Wilton Chavez. What is the most frustrating aspect of these three players, is that we acquired Randall Simon, Tony Womack and Jose Macias for them, respectively. While prospects in larger trades have seldom worked out, these small role players in smaller trades are worth hanging onto.

Sadler, traded for El Chorizo Grande last year, is a 23-year-old centerfielder once drafted in the 30th round. In 2000, Sadler made his debut in the Arizona League, hitting .339/.398/.448 in just 42 games. While his five triples surely helped the slugging percentage, Sadler stole a season-low of four bases. The number jumped to 18 in 2001, when he hit .341/.378/.508 for the Lansing Lugnuts. His power numbers dropped, as expected, when playing in the Florida State League in 2002, slugging only .429 in 462 AB. His average stayed impressive at .286, though his BB/K of 27/91 was very frightening. Following the same path in AA in 2003, the Cubs weren't afraid to deal away the speedy centerfielder. Sadler's power numbers are back up this year, a .219 ISO, and if he can return his average of old times he could be a decent player. But, I sure wouldn't bet on anyone with a career BB/K of 127/347.

It's likely the Cubs soured on Emmanuel Ramirez after finding out he wasn't Pedro Olivero, but the 28 months older Ramirez. Now 24, Ramirez had a career minor league ERA of 2.12 entering this year. He walks too many players, and his slider isn't a great pitch yet. Mid-90s heat is enough to retire AA batters in small workloads, but Ramirez likely won't be a reliever in the Majors. Wilton Chavez is another victim of agegate, adding three years to make him 26. His ERAs have generally been in the low-4.00s, making this year no surprise. Landing a chance on the Expos won't be a problem, but players like Chavez are a dime a dozen with the Cubs. I'll take Leicester, even after yesterday, thank you.

As for the bad players, there isn't a lot to say. Matt Bruback's probelms must be frustrating, because he was looking to be on the verge when the Cubs dealt him. He was worse than Wellemeyer or Leicester then, and now he's even worse than Chavez. Travis Anderson and Mike Nannini were one-year rentals, and both give up far too many HR to be successful anytime soon. Smyth has moved from the Braves to the A's organization, and while his H/9 is now below 9.00, he allows way too many walks, and way too few Ks. Finally, I liked Felix Sanchez at the beginning of the year, and find his struggles to be quite confusing. I still think he has a future as a LOOGY, though there is seemingly something wrong with him now.

Also needed in a proper evaluation is how those young players we've acquired have done. Much excitement has been garnered about not only the Nomar acquisition, but the landing of Matt Murton as well. I called the former Cape Cod home run champ the current Cubs' eighth best prospect, and is shooting for the title as the best minor league Hendry acquisition. Here is his competition, not including the players the Cubs subsequently traded away:

Jared Blasdell: 2-4 4.44 46/48.2 49/31 5 (AA)
Russ Rohlicek: 4-5 2.21 35/57 56/40 1 (AA)
Jason Karnuth: Not With Cubs (Tigers organization)
Jeff Verplancke: Not with Cubs
Jon Connolly: 10-5 2.77 138/133 93/28 9 (A+)
Richard Lewis: .329/.391/.532 in 380 AA AB
Gookie Dawkins: .274/.328/.438 in 281 AAA AB
Andrew Shipman: 2-1 3.32 30/40.2 44/20 5 (A+)

The first four were acquired in the 'firesale' of 2002, which hasn't amounted to much. Rohlicek is the Cubs' answer to Ramirez, a solid reliever with way too many walks. His H/9 and HR/9 and really low, and since he's left-handed, he has a chance, albeit an outside one. Blasdell is a less exciting reliever, right-handed, with no shot.

Obviously, Connolly and Lewis are the two worth talking about. Connolly was the minors' ERA leader of 2003, but is pushed off prospect lists due to 'bad stuff'. But if he keeps these numbers up, stuff doesn't matter much. Lewis broke out last year in the Arizona Fall League, leading Hendry to believe there was more than his career .255 average would suggest. It was a fantastic call by Hendry, seeing that Lewis has recently been promoted to AAA. Lewis might replace Mark Grudzielanek next year, though I believe re-signing Todd Walker as a bench/back-up option would be a good idea.

Gookie's numbers look bad overall, but he's hitting .348/.412/.565 since joining the Iowa Cubs. Once viewed as Barry Larkin's successor, the Cubs were forced to release Rey Ordonez and trade Ricky Gutierrez just to give him an everyday AAA job. At 25 years of age he's still worth the shot, though I believe he'll be a minor league free agent at year's end. Someone will bite, you can bank on that.

Conclusion

With a re-evaluation of Hendry, I think I've proven my thesis that he's one of the game's best. His Major League decisions are historically beneficial, and the yield seldom works out. Jones is an arm surgery waiting to happen, but Francis Beltran and Brendan Harris should be on the Washington Senators' roster in 2005. I like all three players, but we have depth at each of those positions, and I love Nomar. Plus, I have confidence in my GM, one of the game's best, to get him re-signed.

Comments

Great couple of articles. Keenly observed. I think two minor leaguers who were allowed to walk should be mentioned. Adam Melhuse, who caught for Iowa a couple years back, has achieved a fair degree of unsurprising success with Oakland. And Jayson Bass, a slugging outfielder in '02, was one of the top EQA guys in the Mexican league last year.

I can't believe you published this! Now, every GM will see the highway robbery that JH can usually pull off! How dare you? Now, they'll want our top prospects...Guzman, Brownlie, Sisco, etc.

Just kidding...good article, well researched and interesting to the point that JH doesn't get enough credit. Kudos also on the Dusty point. As an avid follower of the farm system, it is disappointing to see the kids get ONE chance and then "see ya'" if their 15 ABs in MLB go awry. However, this has been the case in the past as well, well before Dusty's era (Hinske, et al).