Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cubs Chose Bradley, Paying the Price Now

After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS last year, it was time for Jim Hendry to start thinking about the offseason.  The Cubs, a team blessed with the finances and resources needed to draw in big-name players, had an opportunity to bolster their outfield.  The organization and Cubs fans alike all knew that acquiring a consistent left-handed batting outfielder was almost a necessity.  Jim Edmonds ended up being a somewhat formidable stand-in last season, but he was never going to be a long-term solution.  Upon his departure, we were left with two left handed batting outfielders: the reliable Kosuke Fukudome and the unproven Micah Hoffpauir.  Fukudome normally has an outstanding on-base percentage and a good knack for hitting, but he lacks the pop that the Cubs were looking for in the offseason.  And Hoffpauir, a good option for the future, hadn't yet gotten the experience needed to be counted on day in and day out.    

So then it was up to the Cubs General Manager, Jim Hendry.  Historically known for making decent offseason acquisitions, Hendry started to flirt with the market.  After the dust settled a bit, it was clear that the Cubs would at least have the opportunity to make strong pushes for Raul Ibanez, Bobby Abreu, and Milton Bradley.  All three of them, at least at the time, seemed very similar offensively.  Under normal circumstances, you can expect a good batting average, some decent power numbers, and a high amount of extra base hits from each of the players.

However, the 3 lefties available at the time did have a few differences that were easy to assess.
Bradley was the one that stood out here...injury prone, temperamental, and hard to please. Ibanez and Abreu are the opposite with consistency and patience as their MOs.  The point was that, as an organization, you know what you're going to get with Ibanez and Abreu.  With Bradley, it was a complete toss-up and acquiring him would be taking a huge risk. But Jim Hendry, after putting little emphasis on signing Ibanez or Abreu, chose Bradley as his target.  If he only knew that the very risks associated with signing Bradley were going to come to light immediately, he obviously would have made a different choice.  But those are the types of things that you have to think about as a GM.  Hendry let his guard down and it's blown up in his face so far.  

To put it in perspective, Milton Bradley is currently hitting just .213 with 5 homers and 14 RBIs. The worst part is that he's been out of the lineup wayyyy too much because of injuries and in one case a suspension.  He's missed 13 full games and he has had 10 games with one at-bat or you can see that he's been the antithesis of an everyday player so far. The others?...Well, let's just say that they're doing quite well for themselves, especially Raul Ibanez.  Ibanez is 2nd in the majors with 20 HRs.  He's already knocked in 55 runs and his batting average is a gaudy .325.  Abreu's hitting numbers don't blow you away: .296 batting average, 2 HRs, 28 RBIs.  But he is a perfect 15-for-15 stealing bases and has an on-base percentage of nearly .400.  If you put either player's numbers in place of Bradley's, the Cubs may not be limping along like they are this year in the NL Central.

Now, my argument goes beyond the numbers...sure it would nice to have Ibanez smoking the ball on a daily basis or Abreu making things happen on the basepass.  But Milton Bradley has been a ticking time bomb in the early stages of the season...big surprise right?  He wasted no time getting his first suspension for throwing a fit and bumping an umpire.  As stated earlier, he has been injured quite a bit, mostly coming up limping after running a play out.  And finally, he certainly hasn't made any friends in the Chicago media, to put it lightly.  

So its pretty hard for me as a Cubs fan to sit back and say everything is going to work itself out when there is such a blatant contrast in production between the three guys that were on Chicago's offseason radar.  Although I had doubts initially about Bradley, I eventually got behind Hendry and became optimistic that Milton would finally settle down.  However, it pains me to see that my initial doubts were clearly correct.  Not to mention the fact that Jim Hendry decided to ship off perhaps the Cubs most consistent player from last year, Mark DeRosa.  But that story is for another day.  

If you compound Bradley's underachievement with Alfonso Soriano's knee issues and inconsistency at the plate, the Cubs outfield has been very disappointing.  It just goes to show you that you need players on your team that you can count on.  An elementary school kid could have looked at Bradley's track record and realized that it wasn't a good idea to scoop him up, especially for $30 Million!!  When you have Ramirez hurt and Fonso and Soto struggling, you need a consistent bat.  Ibanez and Abreu define consistency, but apparently Jim Hendry had a different plan....a plan that could end up costing the Cubs as the season moves forward.    


  1. Don't forget how Hendry wisely rushed to lock up Bradley for 10MM per season for 3 years... instead of waiting out the market for players to lower their dollar demands (Abreu, Adam Dunn)

  2. While Ibanez has always been a productive bat, I don't think anyone expected him to start off the season so hot. At 37 many expected his production to taper off, and especially at the contract he signed. Making me think that Abreu would have been the better deal.

  3. last year, bradley had career highs in hrs, rbi, runs, and obp. he also tied his career high in average. all this coming in 1) a contract year, 2) at rangers ballpark in arlington (a notoriously hitters park), and 3) one of the best offensive lineups in all of baseball. as an objective observer, it seems to me someone in the cubs front office didn't do their homework. neal, do you know what did the cubs give up (draft pick wise) to sign bradley? i am just trying to think of some possible reason for such a large contract for such an average player.