in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
In one of the most impactful midseason trades in baseball history, the Chicago Cubs acquire Rick Sutcliffe, George Frazier, and Ron Hassey from the Cleveland Indians for Mel Hall, Joe Carter, Don Schultze, and Darryl Banks. Sutcliffe, who was scuffling at 4-5 with a 5.51 ERA, posts a 16-1 record for the Cubs, with a 2.69 ERA with the Cubs. Rick Sutcliffe would win the Cy Young as the Cubs won the NL Eastern Division.
Rick Sutcliffe was born on June 21, 1956, in Independence, Missouri. In 1974, he was selected with the 21st overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB Draft. Rick Sutcliffe made his debut at the end of the 1976 season. He would make just two appearances in 1978 before his first full season in 1979. Sutcliffe posted a record of 17-10 with a 3.46 ERA to win the Rookie of the Year. Over the next two seasons, Rick Sutcliffe would struggle, leading the Dodgers to trade him to the Cleveland Indians. In his first season in Cleveland, Sutcliffe led the American League with a 2.96 ERA and made it to his first All-Star Game in 1983. In 1984, Rick Sutcliffe got off to an awful start; he had a record of 4-5 with a hefty 5.51 ERA. On June 13, 1984, Rick Sutcliffe was traded to the Chicago Cubs.
At the time of the trade, the Cubs were in an unfamiliar place, sitting atop the National League East. Coming into 1984, the Cubs had not had a winning season in over a decade. They spent part of the 1977 season in first but collapsed in the second half and finished 81-81. In 1983, the Cubs finished fifth in the East with a record of 71-91. With a new manager in Jim Frey, the Cubs had a game and a half lead over the New York Mets with a record of 33-25 when the trade was made.
Rick Sutcliffe made his first start with the Cubs on June 19th, earning a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his first home start, Sutcliffe blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 on June 24th. In his final June start, Rick Sutcliffe suffered a setback losing to the Dodgers 7-1. It would be his final loss of the season and would be one of two losses the Cubs suffered in a game in which Rick Sutcliffe made a start that the Cubs would lose in the 1984 season. Sutcliffe won his next five starts in July. After a no-decision, he would win all six starts in August. With the pitching of Rick Sutcliffe, the Cubs were able to pull away in the NL East.
Rick Sutcliffe, would post a record of 16-1 after the trade, posting an ERA of 2.69. In his final start on September, Sutcliffe pitched a two-hitter as the Cubs beat the Pirates 4-1 at Three Rivers Stadium to clinch the division. It was the first time the Cubs finished in first since 1945. In the NLCS, Rick Sutcliffe earned a win and hit a home run as the Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 13-0 in Game 1. Sutcliffe would suffer a loss in Game 5 as the Padres went on the World Series.
Despite the disappointing end for Rick Sutcliffe and the Cubs, the trade revitalized his career. Sutcliffe was a unanimous choice for Cy Young, beating out Mets super rookie Dwight Gooden. He also finished fourth in MVP voting, finishing behind teammate Ryne Sandberg who was named MVP.