Trade Retrospective – Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers


In an extremely large trade, the Rangers acquired 1B/OF Rafael Palmeiro, SP Jamie Moyer, and P Drew Hall on December 5, 1988 from the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs got back minor leaguers Luis Benitez and Pablo Delgado, pitchers Paul Kilgus, Mitch Williams, Steve Wilson and IF Curtis Wilkerson.

The Background

The Cubs had played Rafael Palmeiro in left field through the 1988 season, as they had perennial fan favorite Mark Grace slotted in at 1B. Realistically, Palmeiro would have been a defensive liability out in LF. They also needed to replace free agent closer Goose Gossage, who had signed with the Giants during the offseason.

The Rangers needed a replacement for free agent 1B Pete O’Brien, who had signed with the Indians shortly before the trade.

The Moving Pieces

In Chicago, the Cubs slotted reliever Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams in at the back end of the bullpen, and elsewhere on the roster included pitchers Paul Kilgus, Steve Wilson and IF Curt Wilkerson.

The Rangers gave Palmeiro their 1B job, and put Moyer and Hall into the starting rotation at points during the 1989 season.

What Happened Next

Immediately upon completion of the trade, Rafael Palmeiro trashed the deal (quote courtesy of this article written by Phil Rogers):

“These people don’t know what they’re doing,” Palmeiro said of general manager Frey and manager Don Zimmer. “These guys in the front office … it’s going straight down, it seems like.”

Palmeiro still insists there was no reason for the trade. He says it should have been a good thing, not a bad one, to have him and Grace in the same line-up.

“It would have worked out fine,” Palmeiro said. “I don’t think I would be any different as a player. Left field was no problem. I could have played left field.”

The Cubs ended up winning the National League East division in 1989, and faced off in the NLCS against the Western division champs, the San Francisco Giants. They ended up losing the series in 5 games, and have only been back to the NLCS one time since (2003). Williams led the back end of the bullpen, posting 36 saves and a 4-4 record with a 2.76 ERA in 81 2/3 innings pitched. Kilgus, Wilkerson and Wilson all played minor roles with the 1989 team, mostly in the bullpen (Kilgus, Wilson) and off the bench (Wilkerson).

The Rangers went on to go 83-79 in 1989, and finish 4th in the 7-team American League West division. Palmeiro had a solid season, hitting .275/.354/.374 with 8 HR and 64 RBI. Moyer went 4-9 in 15 starts during the season, and posted a poor 4.86 ERA. Hall posted a respectable 2-1 record and 3.70 ERA in 38 appearances with the team, all in relief.

The Net Moves

Rangers – First Level

  • Jamie Moyer went 6-15 with a 4.74 ERA in 178 1/3 innings pitched for the Rangers over 2 seasons. He struck out 102, walked 72, and was released by the team on 11/13/1990.
  • Drew Hall pitched mostly out of the bullpen, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.70 ERA over 58 1/3 innings pitched in 1989. On 4/2/1990, he was traded to Montreal for IF Jeff Huson
  • Rafael Palmeiro was with the team through the 1993 season, posting a .296 batting average with 107 HR and 431 RBI. He made 2 All-Star appearances in this stint with the Rangers, and filed for free agency on 10/25/1993

Cubs – First Level

  • Luis Benitez and Pablo Delgado both were in the Cubs’ system through the 1990 season, but never made any Major League appearances, either with the organization or at all for that matter.
  • Paul Kilgus spent the 1989 season with the Cubs, posting a 6-10 record with a 4.39 ERA in 145 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out only 61 batters to 49 walks, and was traded on 12/7/1989 to Toronto for Jose Nunez.
  • Curtis Wilkerson was with the Cubs for 2 seasons, playing in 154 games as a utility player. He posted a .231/.262/.283 line with 1 HR and 26 RBI. He filed for free agency on 10/26/1990, and brought no compensation in return.
  • Mitch Williams was with the Cubs through the 1990 season, posting a 5-12 record with a 3.28 ERA and 52 saves. He struck out 122 versus 102 walks in 148 innings pitched. He also was an All-Star in 1989 for the Cubs, before being traded on 4/7/1991 to the Phillies for Chuck McElroy and Bob Scanlan
  • Steve Wilson posted a 10-13 record, and had the longest tenure of anyone going to the Cubs as he made it through most of the 1991 season. His 4.56 ERA over 237 innings pitched was nothing to write home about, and he was traded to the Dodgers on 9/6/1991 for Jeff Hartsock.

Rangers – Second Level

  • Jeff Huson was with the Rangers from 1990-1993, playing in 410 games and posting a .235/.314/.304 line with 6 homeruns, 80 RBI, and 38 steals in his time there. He missed the entire 1994 season due to an injury, and was released by the Rangers on 11/30/1994.

Cubs – Second Level

  • Chuck McElroy spent the 1991-1993 seasons with the Cubs, pitching exclusively out of their bullpen. He went 12-11 with 206 K and 133 walks in 232 1/3 innings pitched. His 3.06 ERA was solid, but the 1.42 WHIP that went with it, not so much. He was traded after the 1993 season to Cincinnati for Mike Anderson, Darron Cox, and Larry Luebbers.
  • Bob Scanlan also spent the 91-93 seasons with the Cubs, posting a 14-19 record with a 3.75 ERA. In 273 2/3 innings, he struck out 130 and walked 98. He was traded on 12/19/93 to the Brewers for minor leaguers Mike Carter and Rafael Novoa.
  • Jose Nunez went 4-7 in 1990 with a 6.53 ERA in just 60 2/3 innings pitched. Nothing special here it appears, and he was gone after the 1990 season.

Cubs – Third Level

  • Mike Anderson, Darron Cox, and Larry Luebbers all spent 1994 with the organization, but none of them made any appearances with the Cubs. Luebbers was selected off of waivers by the Reds after the 1994 season, netting the Cubs no one. Anderson and Cox both spent the 1995 season in the minors, but also appear to have left the organization after the 1995 season, netting the Cubs no one either.
  • Mike Carter spent 1994-1996 in AA for the Cubs, never even really breaking with a hope of making the Cubs. Rafael Novoa spent the 1994 season with the Cubs AAA team in Iowa, but left the organization after the season. Neither player appear to have netted the organization anything.

Overall Reactions

You know, if you just look at the names involved in the trade, it looks a little bit bad for the Cubs. But when you come to realize that 1)Jamie Moyer was essentially worthless during his stint in Texas, and 2)nearly everyone that the Cubs got back pretty much fell off the face of the earth after the 1989 season, I have to give the Rangers this one. Palmeiro evolved into an All-Star, and eventually became a power hitter as well. Williams helped the team to the NL East division crown, but that was essentially the only impact that was realized by the Cubs from any of the players at all.

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