Cubs' Hendry gets jump on Deadline
Midseason wheeling and dealing not foreign territory for GM
CHICAGO -- If it's July, Jim Hendry must be dealing.
The Cubs got a head start on other teams before the Trade Deadline, and answered the Milwaukee Brewers' acquisition of CC Sabathia by acquiring starter Rich Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin on Tuesday from the Oakland Athletics for four players.
It's the fourth time since Hendry was named the Cubs general manager in July 2002 that he's made a major deal before the July 31 Deadline.
"Jim's been trying to improve our team," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday. "He's talked to a few different clubs about our pitching. Yesterday, Milwaukee made a nice deal for a left-handed starter and today, Jim went out and got himself a real good right-handed pitcher. It's good to see he's so competitive and he's doing all he can in his power to ensure that we win."
Hendry made a splash on July 22, 2003, when the Cubs acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez in a three-player deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also added Randall Simon and Kenny Lofton that year, and the three helped the Cubs win the Central Division title.
In 2004, Hendry was one-third of a blockbuster three-team, six-player deal with the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins in which the Cubs added Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton. Garciaparra didn't exactly provide the impact expected, and the Cubs finished third.
In 2005, they didn't make a move in July, but had three players coming off the disabled list so it felt as if they added fresh bodies. In 2006, the Cubs were more sellers than buyers.
Last year, Hendry and Oakland GM Billy Beane teamed up, and the Cubs acquired catcher Jason Kendall, as well as dealt shortstop Cesar Izturis to Pittsburgh before the Deadline.
The Kendall deal, Hendry said, took two phone calls and about 15 minutes.
Before the 2008 season began, there was some concern that Hendry's hands would be tied while the Tribune Co. tried to sell the ballclub. That hasn't been the case.
"Our mindset is to get in [the postseason], and do a heck of a lot better than last year," Hendry said. "My boss [Cubs chairman Crane Kenney] has been right on board all year in that we're here to try to win this thing.
"I don't know [Tribune chairman] Sam Zell very well but I commend him because in the transition of the company, here's an example that we take on $2.5 million of what's coming in compared to what's going out," Hendry said. "You people asked me in Spring Training, 'Would we be able to make deals in July?' and the word from above has never been 'No' to me, as long as we have a competitive contending team."
The Cubs could finish the first half with the best record in the National League. Part of the reason for that is offseason pickups such as Kosuke Fukudome. Hendry expanded the Cubs' talent pool when he signed the team's first Japanese player to a four-year deal.
Entering Spring Training, the Cubs' 40-man roster comprised of 13 former Draft selections, five non-drafted free agents, nine trade acquisitions, 11 free agent signings and one Minor League free agent signing. Three of those players -- Murton, Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson -- now are headed to Oakland along with Minor League catcher Josh Donaldson.
The Cubs did talk to the Indians about Sabathia, but didn't match up in terms of the prospects Cleveland wanted. Indians general manager Mark Shapiro told Hendry he wanted to get the Sabathia deal done before the lefty's next start, which was Tuesday. Hendry said he had been talking to Beane for at least three weeks about Harden.
It was an easy deal to make, once Hendry and Beane settled on names.
"[Beane] gets talent and he gives talent, which is the way I like to see them work out," Hendry said. "I don't want to win deals. I want to see everybody happy. We get what we want and we win, and I'll be rooting like heck for the guys we traded."
Piniella didn't know the trade had been finalized until he arrived at Wrigley Field for Tuesday's night game against the Cincinnati Reds.
"This is his area," Piniella said of Hendry. "I manage the baseball team. We've talked about pitchers who have been available, but you never know how conversations will go with other clubs or how they're going."
Are Hendry and the Cubs done?
"We're going to continue to try to get better," Hendry said. "We'll try to stay on top of it, and try to keep getting better. We're not going to be allowed to think we're in great shape. We're not foolish enough to think we're a lock and we're going to get in. It's a grind. Who knows? I didn't know two weeks ago if we had a great chance at this one."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.