Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Billy Williams May Be On to Something

The guys at Wrigleyville23 drew my attention to a piece by Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune which reported that Cubs legend Billy Williams would like to find a way to keep Milton Bradley in a Cubs uniform and have him become a productive member of the team.

"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.
None of these options make me think the Cubs would be any better off than they would with Milton Bradley providing even just the level of offense he provided last year. Plus, I have a feeling that Milton is more capable of rebounding than the marginal players the Cubs would get in return for him.

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.


Charley said...

Excellent post Aisle. I agree, so far all of the trade possiblities would not improve the Cubs' situation. I don't like Bradley and the poisonious attitude that comes with him, but unless some general manager is an idiot and offers something of value, I think the Cubs will have to make lemonade out of this lemon.

Aisle 424 said...

At least having Williams and now Hendry starting to talk about keeping him can only help their leverage in a deal. They need to get any of Lee, Theriot, Dempster, Lilly or Zambrano to come out and talk about how they hope that they can put 2009 behind them and move forward in 2010 with Milton in the lineup doing what they know he is capable of doing.

That wouldn't completely erase all of the words and actions from the end of the year, but it wouldn't hurt anything. I don't know why the Cubs have to be so freaking honest with the press all the damn time. Take a page out of Belichick's book and lie your ass off at every opportunity.

All Cubs personnel, repeat after me... "Milton Bradley is a quality player who can help this team win. We know he had a rough start, but we know he is a professional that brings his best effort to the ballpark every day. He gets frustrated, as we all do, and he sometimes does not deal with the frustration in a productive way, but that frustration shows he cares. We have every confidence he can rebound to performing like the player we know he can be and has been for most of his career."

Try not to all use the same exact words.

ccd said...

You have to hand it to the Cubs. They destroyed the guys trade value the last month of the season. Now they are trying to build it back up. They will not get much for this guy. Not because he's a bad ballplayer but because he's a loose cannon. Teams have no idea what they are going to get out of Bradley. They have no idea when he's going to pull one of his patented brain cramps.

It's amazing. I was on the side of this club signing him only a year ago. I guess at this point I want the Cubs to keep him, still he has baggage and the ability to just flip out at anytime. But we all knew that when the Cubs signed him. I imagine 2010 is going to be a pretty bad season anyways. Maybe the Cubs should try and see if they can catch lightning in the bottle from Milt.

Unknown said...

My question would be this -- if Dome is moving back to right field, where does Bradley play?

Aisle 424 said...

Drew, if they keep Bradley, Fukudome will be back in center. There is no other real option unless Fukudome can be moved.

Aisle 424 said...

Yeah, ccd, they fucked this up royally every which way. As you know, I don't even think Hendry should be the one making these decisions, but it almost isn't fair to hand over this pile of horse manure to someone else and expect them to make an ice cream sundae out of it.

He has put them in a position where their only real option is to hope and pray for miracle recoveries from their aging (and insane) players.

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