What Could Have Been: Cubs Trade Rumors Through the Years

July 31 marks the trade deadline, and far more rumors will be talked about than trades actually made. The what-if’s fascinate me. I have followed trade deadline rumors closely since the late 1990’s.

So, on the eve of the 2019 Major League Baseball deadline, I decided to research baseball trade rumors from the past and see if I could uncover any new nuggets. Boy, did I ever. Some of these have been publicized years later, and some of these may be common knowledge for fans following baseball at the time, but for me many of these were shockers.

The following trade rumors are documented from earliest to most recent, and all appeared in commercial mainstream newspapers.


Fake Trades in the 40’s???

You’ve likely been duped by a fake trade on Twitter over the past 10 years from an account appearing to be that of a mainstream baseball reporter, like Ken Rosenthal.

Apparently, fake trades were spread even in the 1940’s. One prankster called the WGN radio station stating radio station WMAQ was reporting the Cubs had traded Bill Nicholson and Eddie Waitkus to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Ewell Blackwell. Then he called WMAQ and reported WGN reported the same trade.

Nicholson would find himself on the trading block a year later, 1948, for real this time. Nicholson was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies for Harry Walker. Ironically, Waitkus joined Nicholson in Philadelphia a year later.


Ernie Banks Is NOT Going to be Traded

While this article mentions rumblings of a potential Ernie Banks trade in the 1950’s, Cubs Vice President John Hollod dispels those rumors in this 1959 Associated Press article.

This contract was signed shortly after the conclusion of the 1959 season, in which Banks won the National League MVP.


Ron Santo a Los Angeles Dodger?

Could it have been? Ron Santo in a Dodgers uniform at the age of 22 for the 1962 baseball season? Apparently, there were rumors the beloved Chicago Cubs player and later broadcaster Ron Santo was going to be dealt as a young 3rd baseman.

Fortunately, the Cubs didn’t actually trade Santo until after the 1973 season. He played his final year in the big leagues with the cross-town White Sox in 1974.


Dave Winfield In His Prime to the Cubs?

The headline certainly caught my attention: “Wild Cub Rumor.” A prime Dave Winfield to the Cubs in 1979? Wow, I have never heard such a thing. Winfield was rumored to be shipped to Chicago in exchange for Dennis Lamp, Jerry Martin, and either Mick Kelleher or Steve Dillard.

We all know Winfield never ended up calling Wrigley Field home. Winfield played one more year with the Padres before hitting free agency and signing with the New York Yankees in 1980.


Bruce Sutter Trade “Idiotic”

Rumors at the 1979 MLB Winter Meetings had the Cubs dealing away Cy Young winner Bruce Sutter to the Philadelphia Phillies. The rumored deal had the Phillies sending Greg Luzinski, Tug McGraw, and Larry Christiansen to Chicago. Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy stomped out those rumors…

Chicago would deal Bruce Sutter to another team at the winter meetings, but that trade was made a year later and with the St. Louis Cardinals.



How about this doozie: Don Mattingly a Cub, Mark Grace a Yankee

Reported in October 1988 was a whopper of a trade rumor. It has the Yankees sending superstar Don Mattingly to the Cubs for Rick Sutcliffe, Shawon Dunston, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark Grace.

Now, Mattingly was certainly a big name star in 1988, I don’t see any way this would have benefited the Cubs. I would almost guarantee there would have been no “Boys of Zimmer” 1989 playoff team had the Yankees and Cubs pulled the trigger on this one.


Shawon Dunston to the Mets

Would there have ever been a Shawon-O-Meter if all the rumors came true. Dunston was a popular name in the 1988 trade rumor mill.

Kevin Elster was a huge hobby name in the late 1980’s. You could find him on Beckett’s Hot List. I’m happy the Cubs kept Dunston over the Elster/Roger McDowell combination.


Bobby Bonilla for Mark Grace?

This trade rumor was another eye opener, and much more to my liking than the 1988 super deal involving Grace for Don Mattingly. In 2019, we only think of Bobby Bonilla’s crazy contract (yeah, he’s still getting paid by the New York Mets every July 1). But, back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Bonilla was a bonafide superstar.

One of the few non-Cubs baseball cards I like keeping around is the 1986 Topps Traded Bobby Bonilla. I guess for me it’s the unknown. Bonilla as a member of the White Sox. Similar to seeing Gleyber Torres Cubs cards (though I am a little bias on that front). I can’t imagine an early 1990’s Cubs team with Bonilla in the lineup. Yeah, Mark Grace was a stud, but Bonilla. Bonilla was an animal in the early 90’s.


Mike Piazza in Chicago, Not New York

Mike Piazza was the top trade target in 1998. The Chicago Cubs were also contending for the first time in nearly a decade. And, according to this Chicago Tribune report, Piazza was nearly a Cub.

The Marlins had tried to package Piazza and third baseman Todd Zeile to the Cubs in a deal for prospects. But the Cubs had no interest in reacquiring Zeile and his $3.2 million salary, even though Kevin Orie was struggling at third.

The Cubs simply were looking to “rent” Piazza for the rest of the season, knowing they had no hope of re-signing him to a six- or seven-year deal for $100 million or more. MacPhail and then-general manager Ed Lynch also refused to part with top catching prospect Pat Cline and top pitching prospect Todd Noel, neither of whom made it to the majors.

Yeah….you read that right. Cubs brass refused to give up Pat Cline and Todd Noel. That last sentence stings.


Sammy Sosa to the Yankees?

What have you done for me lately? And 1998 was not as lately enough as Sosa was the name in trade talks in the middle of the 2000 season. So much so, it was a headline in the Asbury Park Press.

Ironically, one of the names in the rumored deal was a future Cub, Alfonso Soriano.

Sosa didn’t get shipped out until 2005 to Baltimore for Dave Crouthers, Mike Fontenot, and Jerry Hairston Jr. Oh, how the mighty fell.


Mark Prior for Miguel Tejada

It was a hot rumor around Christmas 2005. Too bad for Cubs fans it didn’t come to fruition. Sad, that Felix Pie stalled trade talks in this potential deal.

Sad stats ahead, Cubs fans: Prior only pitched in one season after this potential trade was discussed. He went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 28 walks in 2006. Ouch. Tejada was an All-Star in 2006 and played another six seasons.


A-Rod, a Cub?

It’s almost as if I blocked out the 2000’s of my Cubs fandom. Sure, I remember parts of the 2003 collapse, the 2007 and 2008 disappointments, etc. But, I saw a blurb about Alex Rodriguez and Cubs rumors I drew a blank. Then, I googled it and found an ESPN article and it started coming back to me.

From Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN: Sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.com that Piniella, who is extremely close to Rodriguez, expects the Cubs to pursue the 10-time All-Star aggressively. The 63-year-old manager and the 31-year-old Rodriguez have what amounts to a quasi-father/son relationship; Rodriguez was managed in Seattle by Piniella from 1994 to 2000. It is that relationship — and the tantalizing talent of Rodriguez — that has prompted Piniella to want to explore a trade with the Yankees.

A-Rod isn’t a popular player, but it would have been pretty cool to see him in a Cubs uniform.

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