The Chicago Cubs trade reigning two-time NL batting champion Bill Madlock along with Rob Sperring to the San Francisco Giants for Bobby Murcer, Steve Ontiveros, and Andy Muhlstock.
Reason for the trade: At the height of free agency, Madlock demanded a multi-year contract that would pay $200,000 yearly. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say to Philip K. Wrigley, who demanded Madlock be traded to “whoever would take him.” Also, I can’t see someone like Madlock getting along with newly-hired, no-nonsense Herman Franks as manager.
As for why the Giants agreed, I guess if you have a chance to take a two-time batting champ with a temper, you take him and deal with the consequences. Murcer was probably expendable, with young outfielders Jack Clark, Terry Whitfield, and Larry Herndon on the roster.
How it worked out for the Cubs: Murcer was an instant hit, becoming the leader of a surprising Cubs team that contended for the NL East division up into August. He had 27 HR and 89 RBI in 1977. Those numbers fell to 9 and 64 in 1978, and he was eventually traded back to the Yankees in mid-1979.
Ontiveros was a surprisingly adequate replacement for Madlock at third, providing steady play and some pop (10 HR, 68 RBI, .299 BA in 1977). He stayed with the Cubs through 1980 and retired.
Muhlstock never made it to the majors and was out of baseball after 1978, despite a decent 1977 in AA for the Cubs (2.95 ERA, 12-6 W-L with five complete games and 8 saves as a spot starter and reliever).
How it worked out for the Giants: Madlock continued to hit well for two seasons (.302,.309), but couldn’t quite get the hang of playing second base and necessitated a move of Darrell Evans to the outfield to get back to third. He did help spark the Giants to contention for a good part of 1978, but also got in a clubhouse fight with John Montefusco that year. He was eventually traded in mid-1979 to the Pirates.
Sperring never suited up for the Giants, being traded again in a month to Houston for Rob Andrews.
The grade for the Giants: C. Good production from Mad Dog for two seasons, but no long term benefits.
The grade for the Cubs: B. Higher grade for the influence of Murcer on a team that was starving for a winner.