Hindsight is always 20-20 as they say, and that certainly holds true when wheeling and dealing. Trades excite fans, yet many times teams end up sacrificing their future for a shot at a proven commodity in hopes of a title run. Here is a look at how the Cubs fared in trades since 2005, using statistical analysis and the sabermetric WAR.
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement and is a relatively complicated formula that in the end answers the question, “How much value would the team lose if a replacement player took his spot?” The calculation turns out an approximate win total the player holds.
This trade would have been better had the Cubs held on to Harden, who battled injuries with the Cubs as he has throughout his entire career. But when he pitched, he was electric. Harden compiled a 14-10 record and 3.31 ERA with the Cubs. He also averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and a 4.0 WAR.
Gaudin pitched just one season for the Cubs, going 4-2 with a 6.26 ERA. Since 2008, Gaudin has pitched for four different teams. It’s safe to say there were no hard feelings to see Gaudin leave town.
The Cubs lost very little in what they traded away, however. Donaldson was finally called up this season. The former first-round draft pick has 10 games under his belt, but has hit only .154. Gallagher (-1.3 WAR) has not pitched well for Oakland, San Diego or Pittsburgh while Murton is no longer in the majors.
In his one season with the Cubs, Bradley managed to hit just .257 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs. Silva was coming off two horrid seasons with the Mariners in which he went 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA.
In 2010, both players’ careers took very different turns. Bradley is batting just .206 with a .289 OBP. Silva has performed very well for the Cubs, compiling a 9-3 record with a 3.45 ERA. He’s also struck out 72 batters while walking only 19.
Mitre has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his career. But he may have finally found his niche in the Yankees’ bullpen this season with a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings. The real loss in this trade wasn’t Mitre though. That honor goes to Nolasco (3.6 WAR), who has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, compiling a 49-36 record with a 4.45 ERA. He’s averaging just under eight strikeouts per nine innings and has struck out a total of 585 batters to only 158 walks. Over the past three seasons, Nolasco has averaged a 4.4:1 K:BB ratio.
Pinto (2.1 WAR) has been a solid reliever for the Marlins, throwing 231 innings while striking out 222 batters. He’s also maintained a career 3.62 ERA.
Pierre, the Cubs' centerpiece of the deal, played just one season with the team in which he tallied a 3.3 WAR. And although it was a good season (Pierre hit .292 with 58 steals), it can’t compare to what the Cubs could have had in Mitre, Nolasco and Pinto.
Honorable mention: Jan. 5, 2008: Cubs trade Angel Pagan to the New York Mets for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers. (Cubs' net WAR loss: -7.4)Meyers and Coles are now out of baseball, while Pagan is a stalwart in the Mets lineup. Since being traded to the Mets, Pagan has hit .304 with a .357 OBP and has stolen 37 bases. He’s also achieved a 7.4 WAR. It took Pagan until this season to establish himself as an everyday player. But at 28 years of age, Pagan has most likely reached his ceiling. Considering the return on investment the Cubs received, or lack thereof, this trade was definitely a mistake. While the Cubs “net WAR loss” was more substantial in this deal, the Nolasco deal will be more harmful long-term.
Hamilton wasn’t traded per se, but his rights were once held and then sold in the course of the same day by the Cubs. It’s not as though Hamilton (12.9 WAR) ever played for the Cubs, and you could speculate that in theory they could have Edinson Volquez (5.1 WAR) if they made the same trade the Rangers completed with the Reds.