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Nov. 3 2009 - 1:03 pm | 6 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Is Milton Bradley untradeable by the Chicago Cubs?

Aaron Rowand in center field.

Once a White Sox hero, Aaron Rowand would be a great catch in exchange for Milton Bradley (image via Wikipedia).

If Cubs general manager Jim Hendry can trade Milton Bradley, his greatest mistake, anytime this off-season, he’ll automatically qualify for Major League Executive of the Year….not.

But Hendry ought to get some kind of medal for getting himself, the Cubs and new owner Tom Ricketts out of a monster jam. Despite hopeful trade scenarios of bad contract-for-bad contract that would get the dysfunctional Bradley out of their hair, Hendry and Ricketts simply may have to sweeten the pot beyond bursting just to move him out of Chicago. The trade market  logically isn’t there for the big leagues’ biggest problem child.

Just do the math by process of elimination. “It only takes one,” said a source, but it’s hard to even identify a logical landing place for Bradley and his hubris.
Beyond the obvious concern over Bradley’s temper and lack of sensitivity to the next person, many in the game have pegged him as a DH, believing the Cubs took a big chance trying to play him regularly in right field.  If that’s a prevailing logic, the market for Bradley in the National League would start out very limited.

The Cubs themselves have shot down the first big rumor:  a Bradley-for-Vernon Wells deal. It didn’t make sense anyway with the Cubs taking on far much more money than they’d be dumping.

So Toronto is out. Forget the Yankees and Red Sox. Andy MacPhail ain’t gonna take the Cubs’ refuse for his Orioles. That leads to Tampa Bay and Pat Burrell, with whom the Rays are dissatisfied due to non-production and want to move. A Bradley-for-Burrell swap of lousy deals was second in the rumor mill after Wells.

Several problems, I’ve discovered, in checking around sources througout baseball. Unless the finances even out, the Rays would come out on the short end of the financial stick. Burrell is owed $8 million for another year, Bradley $21 million for two. Would Ricketts pick up one year’s salary? “Why would a team do anything else, unless it’s a wash in a trade?” said one source.

Now here’s just as big of a problem from the Cubs’ end. Say they land Burrell. Where does he play? He was a DH for the Rays. In 2008 with the Phillies, Burrell was removed for a late-inning defensive replacement in 100 of the 154 games he started in left field. If the Cubs tried to play him in right field, he’d be “an Adam Dunn without the hitting,” said another source. The Cubs would have the game’s worst defensive outfield with Soriano and Burrell on the corners with an overtaxed Kosuke Fukudome in center. Shades of the legendarily bad defensively Ralph Kiner-Frankie (“You take it, Frankie”) Baumholtz-Hank Sauer Cubs outfield of 1953-54.

The only solution, according to a source, is flipping Burrell to still another team after the Cubs land him. That would be too much work for Hendry and distract from the effort to actually improve the team, reminding all of the winter-long effort to trade a disgraced Sammy Sosa after the 2004 season that hurt roster-bolstering efforts elsewhere.

Look at it from the Rays’ end, too. GM Andrew Friedman wanted more right-handed hitting and struck out with Burrell. Switch-hitter Bradley, better from the right side, still wouldn’t be the impact hitter they’d want to elevate themselves back to the Yankees-Red Sox level.

Move 3,000 miles west to San Francisco. Obviously, the Giants feel they’re stuck with an albatross in Aaron Rowand’s three years and $36 million left on his contract. Twenty-eight homers and 134 RBIs in two seasons is not what GM Brian Sabean paid for when he signed Rowand. “He’s not the Aaron Rowand of a few years ago,” said a source. But if Hendry could pull off this deal, he should have the Ricketts clan out with collection plates to raise the extra cash from fans. Rowand is the life of a clubhouse and would restore the chemistry lost by the forced departures of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood. His hustle and nose for the baseball in center field are unquestioned, allowing Fukudome to move back to right field. A reprise of his Giants offensive numbers would be acceptable with all the other hitters in the Cubs lineup.

But there’s one catch in this whole scenario. “Knowing Bruce (manager Bochy), it would be hard to imagine taking on Bradley,” said a source. “Was Bruce there in San Diego when Bradley was there? No? Well, there you go.”

The field narrows when you figure Bradley’s burned his bridges with the six previous teams for whom he’s played — San Diego, Montreal/Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas. None would even want to deal with half a $21 million deal. San Diego was a possiblity when Kevin Towers was GM, but he recently was fired. Bradley had rapport with Rangers manager Ron Washington, but the franchise is up for sale and that kind of headache is not needed.

Kansas City? If the Royals are so desperate for offense, maybe, but Bradley is simply not a lineup difference-maker. Just go up and down the ranks of teams and you simply don’t see where Bradley can fit in, even for a forgiving GM and owner willing to risk the baggage he brings.

In the end, Ricketts may have to be flexible — learning the dark side of baseball management — and be willing to practically give Bradley away.

“The money would have to be very lopsided in favor of the other team,” said one source.

“Don’t sit here and hold out for a (good deal),” said another source. “After all, you (the Cubs) kicked him off the team. No team is going to give the Cubs a break if the Cubs were the ones who gave him this bad deal, a three-year contract when he’s never had more than a one-year deal.”

Here’s the test that tries men’s souls: Do Hendry and Ricketts have a Plan B if they simply can’t trade Bradley?


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  1. collapse expand

    First, the signing of MB to a three-year, $30M deal should have been, in a just world, a fireable offense. That said, I wonder if anybody has considered that Milton is, well, mentally ill. I mean it. No, not mentally ill like John Hinkley but in the more modern sense of the term. Most Cubs fans want to string him up but I pity the guy. Listen carefully to what he says and you hear a man whose perceptions are pathologically askew. He views the world as a place where umpires, fans, teammates, authority figures and just about anybody else he meets are out to get him. His emotions and social interactions are so out of balance that he blows up every once in a while. I saw a person walking down the street today who was well-dressed but clearly deranged. She was shouting to herself and was so full of rage that her face was flushed and distorted. At some point, she must have been a productive member of society but then the demons just got too big for her to control. How far is Milton from that point? He gets to shout at the demons right now, only they’re personified by imaginary persecutors like the press or the home plate umpire. When he doesn’t have those straw men anymore, will he be walking down the street shouting at himself? Maybe Hungry Jim Hendry’s biggest trick will be trying to convince Milton to go see a shrink. Couldn’t hurt, could it?

    • collapse expand

      I wrote in a previous blog, BigMike, that Bradley will probably only solve his problems once he leaves baseball. Too much pressure, too much being in the spotlight. He’s a smart, often-well-spoken guy with seemingly multiple personalities. The problem was, Hendry was hot after him for years before he signed him. He wasn’t going to consider Raul Ibanez, who was a model citizen with charitable work for the Phils and a great season to boot. Maybe these mistakes won’t happen in the future if Tom Ricketts can FINALLY build up the best baseball organization in the game.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Good grief, what a mess. Unfortunately, whatever happens, it appears it will be expensive at the Cubs’ end. The Bradley deal never made sense from the beginning, as evidenced early on at the Cubs Convention in January. When fans voiced their concerns, Cubs management time and again professed that Bradley was a great acquisition despite his questionable resume. Out of the various scenarios in your article, George, I’m pulling for Aaron Rowand. (And if things weren’t painful enough, to see Mark De Rosa in that Cardinal uniform was almost unbearable.) Don’t want to think about Plan B!

    • collapse expand

      You’d love Aaron Rowand, Jan. He was a popular 2005 world champion White Sox player. He’s close with Reed Johnson, with whom he played in college. Aaron does not have to produce big numbers to be valuable. Between him, Reed and Sam Fuld, you’d have the three most fearless outfielders in the game.

      But you might have to dream about Aaron, if Bruce Bochy says he wants no part of Bradley

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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