Tag Archives: Jim Hendry

Former Cubs Player Ryan Freel Found Dead

Ryan Freel

Ryan Freel, 36, was found dead in his Jacksonville, FL home on Saturday. Early reports indicate he he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Freel briefly played for the Cubs in 2009. Jim Hendry aquired him from Baltimore for Joey Gathright in early May. I never understood the trade. Gathright was 28 and Freel a washed up 33-year-old riddled with an achy body.

Granted, Gathright never panned out, but Freel had a (-2) OPS+ in just 14-games with Chicago before he was purchased by the Royals in July. His big league career was over before he ever arrived in Chicago.

“He’s a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him.”

That aside, count me among the many fans who appreciated Freel’s constant hustle on the diamond. He was scrappy, a gamer, and apparently won the heart of Hendry, too.

Long live Farney.


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When Cubs Had Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano

Crazy to think at one point the Cubs could’ve played an outfield of Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano.

It could’ve happened as early as 2007, but the possibility hardly had a chance to take root and likely wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

Chicago selected Hamilton with the third overall pick in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, but immediately traded him to Cincinnati for $100,000.

Meanwhile, Pagan, then 24, had just made his major league debut in 2006. He stayed through 2007 as a part-time player (injuries too) before Jim Hendry traded him during the offseason to the Mets for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers, neither of whom reached the big leagues.

Granted the Cubs won back-to-back divisions titles in ’07-’08, but what might have been had Hendry not pushed all his chips in on outfielders Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome?

And that’s not to forget Soriano’s mega-deal of 8-years, $136M.

To be fair, Hendry wasn’t always afforded the luxury of a long-term approach to win a world series. The Tribune company wanted to sell the team and a championship trophy was the leverage to increase the selling price. The future success of the organization was barely an afterthought.

Shortsightedness, however, is one of the pitfalls of a ‘win-now’ mentality the Cubs were operating under five-years ago. It induces panic to set in when falling short of the ultimate goal, and when panic takes hold you sign Milton Bradley.

That’s why it’s so encouraging Tom Ricketts is taking an opposite approach from the previous ownership. With Team Theo the Cubs are methodically building a plan for sustained success.

The ultimate goal will always be winning the world series, but when the Cubs fall short it won’t take hitting rock-bottom to get another crack at the hardware.

The pace of rebuilding is painfully slow, but the chance another dynamic outfield trio slips through Chicago’s hands is unlikely. With Epstein at the wheel the future will never be out of sight out of mind; for which we can be thankful.

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Cubs Trade For Derrek Lee Nov. 25, 2003

Nov. 25, 2003: the Cubs trade minor leaguer Mike Nannini and Hee-Seop Choi to the Marlins for Derrek Lee.

For all the heat Jim Hendry received during his tenure as Cubs GM, this was one of his better deals.

Lee, then 28, had just wrapped up his first Gold Glove and a World Championship with Florida. He was in the prime of his career, his best seasons were still ahead and he would soon become the clubhouse leader in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Nannini never reached the majors and Choi finished his underwhelming career with the Dodgers two-years later.

Lee of course went on to have the best season of his career in 2005. He played 158-games, won the NL Batting Title (.335), Silver Slugger Award (46 HR, 107 RBI), his second Gold Glove and finished third in the MVP race (5.7 WAR).

It’s hard to know what happens in Lee’s career had he not broke his wrist in April of 2006 after colliding with Rafael Furcal near first base in Los Angeles. He returned from the injury two months later, but clearly wasn’t the same hitter as before the collision.

Lee’s recovering wrist appeared to cripple his power during the next two seasons, including the playoffs, before his return to form in 2009: .972 OPS, 35 HR, 111 RBI. Now 34, however, it proved the last glimpse of Lee as the power-hitting threat from four-years earlier.

Lee’s numbers offensively didn’t live up to his 5-year, $65 million contract in 2006 (in fact, the ink had yet to dry when the wrist injury occurred) but his value on defense and outstanding leadership arguably made him the face of the franchise until Starlin Castro‘s arrival in May of 2010.

Three months later Lee was traded to the Braves for three minor leaguers, none of which have yet to reach the big leagues. Lee’s seven years spent on the North Side were over and soon so was his major league career.

Nevertheless, Lee’s arrival in Chicago ultimately proved a landslide trade-win for Hendry and the Cubs.


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Cubs Struck Out On Angel Pagan

Angel Pagan

Two things crossed my mind while watching former-Cub Angel Pagan this postseason.

1. How many titanium necklaces does one need around the neck to feel comfortable playing a baseball game?

2. It’s a shame the Cubs ever parted ways with Pagan.

Let’s begin with No.2. To jog the memory, Pagan spent his first two major league seasons with the Cubs in 2006-07 as a fourth outfielder.

But a succession of nagging injuries greatly limited his playing time and ultimately lead Jim Hendry to trade the then 25-year to the Mets for two minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and who never reached the majors.

It’s still a wonder why Hendry didn’t hold on to the switch-hitter a little longer, especially considering the return in the trade was so negligible and Pagan was still a young man showing encouraging potential when healthy.

Instead Hendry put his chips down on outfielders Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Sam Fold–each experiencing limited success with the Cubs, but none panning out as well as Pagan has.

By Angel’s second season with the Mets he posted the top WAR on the team (3.8) despite playing in only 88-games…partly limited by injuries and partly blocked by an outfield of Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Fancoeur.

In his third season, however, Pagan managed to play in 151-games and again had the highest WAR of any Mets player (5.1).

His offensive numbers didn’t jump off the page in either season, but he was proving to be an above average, all-around outfielder with plus-defense and the ability to steal bases, swiping 55-bags total in his first three season in New York.

His fourth and final season with the Mets was marked with more physical ailments, specifically a pesky oblique injury in early April, which limited Pagan’s season to 123-games, and saw a significant decline in his offensive production.

That likely led to New York’s decision to part way with Pagan in the offseason dealing him to San Francisco for reliever Ramon Ramirez and center fielder Andres Torres.

Pagan, now 30, responded with the best season of his career playing in a career-high 154-games, leading the majors with 15-triples, posting a solid 121 OPS+ and playing a sparkling center field on his way to winning a World Series ring.

All said, there’s no reason to believe Pagan wouldn’t have been just as good throughout his career with the Cubs had Hendry held onto him.

Meanwhile, from 2008 to present the Cubs have gone through outfielders: Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie, Sam Fold, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Craig Monroe, Eric Patterson, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jake Fox, Jim Edmonds, Reed Johnson, Bobby Scales, Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright, Tyler Colvin, So Taguchi, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Brad Snyder, Luis Montanez and Joe Mather.

Did I miss anybody?

What stands out is there’s not a single outfielder on that list who was significantly better while with the Cubs than Pagan has been during his career.

So it seems safe to say this was one (of many) deals Hendry would’ve liked to have had back, even if Pagan is, in fact, injury prone.

Better still, Pagan is also better than the centerfield options the Cubs presently have on its roster. I know there’s high hope for Brett Jackson, but it’s a near lock he won’t be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day 2013.

What’s next for Pagan? He’s a 31-year-old free agent primed to cash-in with a multi-year deal this winter.

It’s unclear if any team will risk Angel’s long history of injuries to pay him top-dollar over multiple seasons. I happen to like his chance of returning to the Giants…say in the 2-3 year range.

Angel Pagan Taco

As for those unsightly titanium necklaces, Pagan seems to prefer wearing two necklaces when playing.

I figure you could get 13 or 14 around his neck comfortably and let’s say 19 if you really forced the issue.

But when you’ve helped your team to a World Series title with leadoff home runs and sensational defense, not to mention winning free tacos for all of America, you get a free pass to wear as many necklaces as you wish.

The only thing I’d change is that Pagan was wearing his titanium rings with the Cubs.

*Look who steals third in the video below…


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Did Cubs Win or Lose Matt Garza Trade?

I’ve offered to host a hot-debate between two @BullpenBrian Twitter followers.

The matter at hand is whether or not Jim Hendry should have traded 5-prospects for Matt Garza on January 8, 2011. (Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld & Brandon Guyer).

Below is a summary of each case. Please vote to determine the winner. May the best case win.

Court’s now in session:

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Where’s The Cubs Minor League Pitching Depth?

The addition of RHP Andy Sonnanstine shows us Theo Epstein has a complete lack of faith in the Cubs current pitching prospects or an unbelievable amount of faith in new Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Outside a decent (13-9) season in 2008 for Sonnanstine, the 28-year-old Ohio native has struggled through most of his five year career with Tampa Bay, of which Epstein witnessed first hand in Boston.

Now he’s the latest project of Epstein’s methodical approach to piecing together the Cubs pitching staff with lower-risk offseason moves through trades and free agency.

As the Cubs discovered last year, you can never have enough pitching depth, which immediately hampered the team when both Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner suffered lengthy arm injuries during the season’s first week.

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The Cubs’ Next GM

Below is MLBTR’s list of the top 20 GM candidates in MLB. Other names that popped up over the weekend include Josh Byrnes, Andrew Friedman and Boston’s Theo Epstein.

    Jerry DiPoto, Senior VP, Scouting & Player Development, Diamondbacks
    Rick Hahn, VP, AGM, White Sox
    Thad Levine, AGM, Rangers
    Ben Cherington, Senior VP, AGM, Red Sox
    David Forst, AGM, Athletics
    Tony LaCava, VP Baseball Operations and AGM, Blue Jays
    Mike Chernoff, AGM, Indians
    Bryan Minniti, AGM, Nationals
    A.J. Preller, Senior Director, Player Personnel, Rangers
    Kim Ng, MLB
    DeJon Watson, AGM, Player Development, Dodgers
    Al Avila, VP, AGM, Tigers
    Damon Oppenheimer, Scouting Director, Yankees
    Mike Radcliff, Vice President of Player Personnel, Twins
    Bill Geivett, Sr. VP Scouting & Player Development, AGM, Rockies
    John Ricco, VP, AGM, Mets
    Jeff Kingston, AGM, Mariners
    Logan White, AGM, Amateur & International Scouting, Dodgers
    Peter Woodfork, MLB
    Matt Klentak, Director of Baseball Operations, Orioles

Honorable mentions in alphabetical order: Matt Arnold, Director, Pro Scouting (Rays), Jeff Bridich, Senior Director of Baseball Operations (Rockies), John Coppolella, Director of Baseball Administration (Braves), Dan Jennings, VP Player Personnel & AGM (Marlins), Jason McLeod, VP, AGM (Padres), J.J. Picollo, AGM, Scouting & Player Development (Royals), Shiraz Rehman, Director of Player Personnel (Diamondbacks) and Josh Stein, Director of Baseball Operations (Padres).

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