"If we could salvage something here and get a good ballplayer after what has happened, I think it would be a good thing," Williams said Monday. "I am going to continue to try to talk to him and give my opinion on what he should do and what he shouldn't do. I know that he listens and he will tell me a lot of things."
Now, I know that seems incredibly unlikely, but that is the scenario I am rooting for at this point. The reason, plain and simple, is that I have not seen a trade rumor involving Bradley that doesn't make me throw up in my mouth a little. The very best case scenario so far would involve Bradley rebounding and becoming a viable member of the offense (and by extension, winning back a significant portion of the fan base in the process).
Let's look at some of the players the Cubs would get back in various rumored scenarios:
- Aaron Rowand - this seems to be the favorite option of Al over at BCB, but for the life of me, I have no idea why. Rowand is basically a .750 OPS guy who had two non-consecutive good years that he combined with a "scrappy" reputation into major free agent dollars. He has three years and $36 million left on his deal and he will be 32 this year, so the odds of a major resurgence is unlikely. He is also right-handed, which leaves the Cubs back in that all-righty situation they were trying so hard to avoid last year. On the plus side, he is universally regarded as a good clubhouse guy and you can't fault his effort on the field. There is nothing the Cubs marketing department loves more than a hustling white guy who is trying to play above his talent level.
- Pat Burrell - Burrell actually has a semi-quality bat. Prior to last year with the Rays, he averaged 28 HRs, 92 RBIs with a .257/.367/.485/.852 line. Not great. Not terrible. The problem is that he is also right-handed and would be best suited for left field where his brutal fielding would cause the least amount of damage. Unfortunately, the 136 Million Dollar Man is stationed out in left, so Burrell would have to play right, which would be disastrous with Fukudome remaining out of position in center. I do think he could rebound with a change of scenery and a return to the National League, so I'm not as worried about the loss of offense. The problem is that he is only owed $9 million for next year, which means that the Cubs would be paying Milton Bradley's $21 million for Milton to play in Tampa plus have a worse player in the Cubs lineup. I'm personally not interested in paying Milton to help another team unless the player we get back has higher upside, which isn't going to happen.
- Vernon Wells - The man is owed $98.5 million over the next five years. This would only serve to make Soriano's contract the second worst on the team.
- Luis Castillo - this latest rumor provided by Ken Rosenthal involves a three-way deal with the Mets and Blue Jays that would send Lyle Overbay to the Mets, Bradley to the Blue Jays, and Castillo to the Cubs. This deal brings Luis Castillo and his $12 million over two years to the second base position. In theory, Castillo's OBP and speed could be useful, but his defense is declining with his age, and it would take playing time away from Jeff Baker, which would be a crime, given that he was the only guy on the team who remembered to bring his bat to the park on most days last year. Also, the contracts don't add up, so we would again be paying for Milton to play elsewhere.
Remember when Moises Alou first arrived in a Cubs uniform in 2002? He was not good. He had the worst year of his entire career. He rebounded and became a crucial part of the 2003 playoff run and carried a big part of the offensive load after Sosa's drop-off in 2004.
Derrek Lee showed up in 2004 and couldn't hit a damn thing for the first month as a Cub and then managed to pull off an average year before putting up Pujolsian numbers in 2005.
Because Aramis Ramirez was stepping into the black hole of third base, we don't recall that his worst numbers as a Cub came in 2003 right after he arrived from Pittsburgh. His OPS was .805, which doesn't suck, but it isn't the .900+ OPS we have grown accustomed to seeing out of him.
With the exception of Andre Dawson, I have a hard time thinking of any Cub hitter that became a Cub and immediately became a force in the lineup. For some reason, it is not an easy thing for a major league hitter to get used to being a Cub.
Blame it on the day baseball, the shitty accommodations of Wrigley, the intense pressure from the fan base, a combination of those factors or "The Curse," but there is something that makes becoming a Cub something that is difficult for most major league hitters. It is also something that can improve for no apparent reason other than simply becoming accustomed to the Cubness.
I don't know why Milton Bradley would be any different if he decided he wanted to give it a shot.
Of course, there are a lot of big "ifs" involved. IF Milton even wants to be here and is willing to try to make amends to his team mates. IF the Cubs decide that they aren't going to get anything better for him and make an effort to repair the relationship. IF the rest of his team (who did not seem upset in the slightest when the Cubs sent him home) is willing to give him a second chance. IF he can stay healthy for a second year in a row (he did manage to stay about as healthy as one can expect of him last year). IF all of those factors can come together, he could manage to become the hitter that Jim Hendry thought he was signing last year. Believe me, IF those all come together, the fans will come around too.
As unlikely as all that seems, it seems even less likely that the Cubs will improve their team by trading Bradley. So, that is almost assuredly what they will do.