Jim Hendry. His name alone fills me with mixed feelings, not to mention a craving for Krispey Kremes. One could argue that the Cubs have enjoyed one of their most successful runs during the Hendry years. One could also argue that some of Hendry's moves have hamstrung the team as well. If you were Tom Ricketts, would you keep Jim Hendry or look to bring in another GM to take his place? Let's examine some of the transactions Hendry has made over the past several seasons.
Before the 2003 season, the Cubs were saddled with Todd Hundley. In a flash of brilliance, Hendry traded Hundley to the Dodgers for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. Grudz and Karros would both be big pieces on the 2003 Central Division winning Cubs that year while Hundley continued to suck out loud.
Hee-Seop Choi for Derrek Lee. Before the 2004 season, Hendry made this little beauty of a trade. As one of the three people who believed that Choi was the first baseman of the future, I was happy that I turned out to be completely wrong. Derrek Lee is now one of the keystone players on the Cubs and Hee Seop Choi is selling Kias back in his homeland.
Jim Edmonds. I personally thought Jim Edmonds was done and that this was a terrible signing. I had to eat my words, as Edmonds came back from the dead and gave the Cubs some solid baseball.
One of Hendry's best free agent signings was the four year deal he gave Ted Lilly. If I remember right, he was criticized for making this deal, but Lilly has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the NL over the course of his contract.
The ultimate Hendry trade is the mid-season deal he made in 2003, trading Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez to Pittsburgh for Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez. At the time, most of the excitement was around acquiring Lofton to replace the injured Corey Patterson (who actually had been playing pretty good in '03), but I had had a man-crush on the Rammer even when he was with the Pirates. Lofton is long gone, but Ramirez is the best hitter on the Cubs and one of the best third baseman in the game. As for Bobby Hill, that boy ain't right. Never was.
Juan Pierre. After missing out on signing Raphael Furcal, Hendry decided he must have a leadoff hitter at all cost and dealt prospects Ricky Nolasco, Renyel Pinto, and pitcher Sergio Mitre to the Marlins for baby-headed Pierre. While Pierre did have 204 hits in his one season with the Cubs, giving up three pitchers for one year of Pierre was an awful trade. The trade was almost as bad as watching Pierre in the outfield. How do you know you're a sucky outfielder? When Jacque Jones has a better throwing arm than you do. I remember there were games where Pierre would flip the ball to one of his corner outfielders to make the throw back in to the infield. Little peanut-headed, limp-wristed so and so. Nolasco is now a solid part of the Marlins' rotation and Pinto has been decent out of the 'pen. Mitre is now a Yankee. And the Dodgers have Pierre. so lose-lose all around for the Cubs in this deal. Except for the fact that I no longer have to watch Pierre play.
The jury is still out on whether or not the Mark DeRosa trade was a good move or not. The Cubs will have to wait and see what they get from the pitching prospects the Indians sent them. However, the fallout from the DeRosa trade led Hendry to the Aaron Miles signing. Epic fail there. The DeRo trade was also supposed to be a buildup to trading for Jake Peavy, which never happened. When Ramirez went down with his shoulder injury, the Cubs had no viable major league substitute for him and Jake Peavy is now pitching for the White Sox because Hendry didn't pull the trigger on a deal for him in the offseason. Plus DeRosa eventually found his way to division rival St. Louis. He didn't do squat for the Cardinals, but it's still annoying that one of Hendry's moves inadvertently helped St. Louis. And not having DeRosa on the Cubs meant that for some inconceivable reason, Mike Fontenot played a bunch of games at third base. The memory of that still fills me with with a rage hotter than a million suns.
Alfonso Soriano. I'm not going to dispute the idea that Soriano was the best free agent available that offseason, but Hendry didn't even seem to negotiate, just basically threw a big pile of money at Fonzie. Really, it's not so much the money involved here as the number of years he gave Soriano. I can't understand why you would give a 30 year old guy an 8 year deal. Apparently, Hendry learned nothing from the Sosa debacle. So Soriano will be holding right field hostage for the next five years, while his legs get creakier and creakier. Not good. And there's no way in hell Hendry will find a trade partner willing to take on that kind of obligation.
Kosuke Fukudome. I really like Kosuke. He's a solid defender and I think he's a great #2 hitter. I do think he will continue to improve. You don't win batting titles in Japan by being a shitty hitter. The reason that this deal is starting to look bad is that Hendry again gave out too many years. A four year deal for a guy who'd never played in the majors was somewhat foolish. Also, it seemed like Hendry thought maybe Fukudome would flash a little more power and drive in more runs. If he had signed Kosuke to be a #2 hitter, OBP guy, this is a great move. But I don't think that's what Hendry expected Fukudome to do when he signed him.
Jason Marquis. Hendry overpaid for three years of Marquis. For two years, the best thing you could say about Marquis was that he ate innings and he could swing the bat a little bit. Then Hendry traded him for Luis Vizcaino, whom the Cubs promptly released. Marquis proceeded to have a career year for the Rockies, with his salary paid for by the Cubs. Now I'm not saying he would have had the same year for the Cubs, but the Cubs got absolutely nothing for trading him.
How about Jason Dubois for Jody Gerut, who Hendry then traded for an ineffectual Matt Lawton? A garbage trade twofer. For some reason, Jason Dubois is back in our minor league system, stealing playing time from some kid who's actually good.
Milton Bradley. It's been discussed before, but this is the worst signing Hendry has ever made. No other GM in baseball was willing to give this walking cock a multi-year deal. Only Jim Hendry let himself get suckered by Milton's 'I've Changed' sales pitch. In addition to being a gigantic asshole, Bradley has never played a full season in the majors without hurting himself or his fragile ego. To give a guy with a history of injury and malcontentism a contract longer than a year is just ludicrous. I'm no GM, but I knew and most fans who follow the sport knew that Bradley was a cancer. And here again, it seems like Hendry learned nothing from the bad atmosphere surrounding Sammy Sosa. Now, much like the 2004 offseason, Hendry is handcuffed until he can rid himself of a jerk-off right-fielder wearing #21.
And just for fun, here are two guys that Jim Hendry has coveted over the years that he wasn't able to sign or trade for:
1. Termel Sledge
2. Austin Kearns
I think that tells you all you need to know about Jim Hendry's talent evaluation skills.
Another of my issues with Hendry is that he tends to get tunnel vision and focus on landing one type of player. Look at the Juan Pierre trade. Hendry was deadset on acquiring a leadoff hitter and had set his sights on Rafael Furcal. When Furcal spurned the Cubs at the last moment, Hendry panicked and overpaid (in prospect terms) to acquire Pierre. In order to land Soriano, he went well above a reasonable offer, just so the Cubs wouldn't lose Soriano as they had Furcal. Last offseason, he ignored guys like Raul Ibanez and Bobby Abreu to focus on Milton Bradley.
So does the good outweigh the bad over the course of Hendry's tenure with the Cubs? Personally, I think Hendry should be let go for the Bradley fiasco alone. There was plenty of evidence to suggest that Bradley was a headcase, yet Hendry offered him a long term deal regardless. That one misstep is going to cost the Cubs the bulk of what is owed to Bradley. Not exactly the best way to endear yourself to a brand new owner.