The Jim Hendry Conundrum

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is in the third of a four year contract extension that he signed at the end of 2008, and the consensus from around the league is that if he wants to keep his job in Chicago, the Cubs are going to have to begin showing improvement sooner rather than later.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal throws his support firmly behind Hendry inĀ his column today, stating:

The Cubs, no matter how this season turns out, are on the right path. The loss of Hendry and his staff would set them back. If [owner Tom] Ricketts changes GMs, his new guy is going to end up looking pretty smart because of Jim Hendry.

Rosenthal justifies his statement by suggesting that the Cubs are on the verge of a youthful resurgence headed by the likes of Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Andrew Cashner.

As a former scouting director in Chicago, Hendry has never had a problem spotting talent. It seems that there’s always hope in Cubs draft picks. Hendry’s problems involve properly developing the young baseball talent that he spots into impactful Major League players. In their organizational rankings heading into this year, FanGraphs lists the Cub’s draft picks who have made the major leagues, whether with the Cubs or not:

Jake Fox, Sean Marshall, Casey McGehee, Mitch Atkins, Eric Patterson, Sam Fuld, Sean Gallagher, Jerry Blevins, Micah Owings, Donnie Veal, Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Darwin Barney, James Russell, Andrew Cashner, and Casey Coleman.

That’s sparse.

His reputation also takes a serious hit when you look back to some of the questionable extensions and free agent contracts that he’s handed out to Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jason Marquis and even Carlos Pena, who signed a one year deal with the Cubs this past offseason.

If the consensus is true about Hendry needing to win now in order to keep his job, the Cubs are likely better off ridding themselves of their GM right now. We already saw what Hendry is willing to do this offseason in order to compete now when he traded Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Garza and others. I realize that Garza has looked good so far as a member of the Cubs, but if Hendry is to be kept around on the merits of a bright future, what guarantee is there that the players pegged to create that bright future will even be on the team?

As the Cubs get set to shed $50 million of Hendry’s bad contracts this offseason, it seems to me that now would be the perfect time to put a new management team in place, not recommit to one that has a history of bad decisions that have ruined an otherwise competitive team with massive resources in an otherwise weak NL Central.