To say the Cubs knew exactly what they were getting when they acquired Sammy Sosa in March 1992 would be a stretch. But they might have had an inkling.
Larry Himes took over as Cubs general manager in October 1991 following a 77-83 season in which the club fired manager Don Zimmer after 37 games. Among the 1991 team's stars was George Bell, who joined the Cubs that season as a free agent after nine seasons with the Blue Jays. Bell, the 1987 American League MVP, hit .285 with 25 homers and 86 RBIs, making the All-Star team.
Perhaps Himes wanted to make a change in his first season running the Cubs. Perhaps he saw something in Sosa that hadn’t translated to on-field production in his time with the White Sox. Perhaps he was just looking to get rid of the two years and $7.3 million left on Bell’s contract.
Whatever the reason, he traded Bell to the White Sox for Sosa and left-handed pitcher Ken Patterson on the eve of the 1992 season. And it wasn't the first time he acquired Sosa as a big league GM.
Sosa made his MLB debut in 1989 with the Rangers, hitting .238 with one homer in 25 games. That July, Texas dealt him to the White Sox — where Himes was GM from 1986-90. Sosa wasn't much better on the South Side, hitting .227 with 28 homers, 113 RBIs and a .659 OPS in 302 games.
Of course, Sosa figured things out as a Cub, hitting 545 home runs while making seven All-Star teams and receiving the 1998 NL MVP. Bell hit 25 homers with 112 RBIs with the Sox in 1992 but injuries caught up with him the following season.
Bell appeared in 102 games in 1993, went hitless in his final 26 at-bats and did not play in the postseason as the White Sox battled his former team, the Blue Jays. He did not play another major league game.
Sosa left the Cubs after the 2004 season under a cloud of suspicion of what was behind his Hall of Fame worthy numbers. But going strictly off the numbers on the back of the baseball card, acquiring him will go down as one of the greatest trades in Cubs history.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.