So Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports is reporting the Rays and Cubs have rekindled the trade talks over the bad contracts of Pat Burrell and Milton Bradley. On one side you have the slowest player in baseball east of the Mississippi River while on the other side you have a player that infects nearly every club he touches with me-itis. On the surface, it would appear like both clubs want to give away regrettable contracts they signed less than a year ago, but things are never that simple. Burrell is still the lesser of two evils because he will be a free agent this time next season so it behooves him to kick some ass in 2010 because he will be going for the final long-term deal of his career next off-season and he needs to do everything he can to erase the disastrous 2009 season from every General Manager in the American League. Additionally, according to the contract information on Cot’s (linked above on the Rays Resources page), Burrell only has $7,000,000 coming to him this year as the Rays gave him a $2,000,000 advance on his contract when he signed last year.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have a very expensive problem on their hands in Bradley as he is due three times what Burrell is due but Bradley is not a free agent until after the 2011 season. Bradley is coming off a very disappointing season in which he became public enemy #1 for Cubs fans with his under-performance both at the plate and in the field and was eventually suspended for pulling himself out of a game in September. Since the off-season, Bradley has been mentioned in rumors of trade talks with the Rays, Rangers, Cubs, Mets, and possibly even the California Penal League but that has not yet been confirmed. The Cubs owe Bradley $21,000,000 over the next two years as well as a suite at the hotel each time they go on the road which is why the Cubs are stuck with Bradley’s contract unless they eat a significant chunk of the dollars in that contract.
The story above mentions the Cubs and Rays are about two to three million apart on a deal which shows the Cubs are willing to eat a huge part of that contract. Consider there is a $14,000,000 difference between what the Rays owe Burrell and what the Cubs owe Bradley so if the clubs are only 2-3 million apart, the Cubs must be willing to take on Burrell’s remaining money as well east at least half of the Bradley’s contract. My guess is the Cubs are offering to take on Burrell’s contract if the Rays will take Bradley for the next two years at the price they are currently paying Pat.
If the Rays took that deal, that would stick them with Bradley for the next two seasons and cost them the roster flexibility that Burrell gives the club when he leaves as a free agent next season which is why the Rays are holding out for the Cubs to pay more into this deal. I would think if the Cubs came up and offered to pay all but $5,000,000 of Bradley’s deal, the Rays would be inclined to make the trade. Perhaps the Rays could make it worth the Cubs while by adding in a pitcher for the bullpen such as Andy Sonnanstine who is still quite cheap or Dan Wheeler who is due another $4,500,000 for 2010 and to buy out his 2011 option.
The argument could be made that Burrell is the lesser of two evils, even if the Cubs are paying a hefty part of Bradley’s contract for two big reasons: he’s gone after 2010 and he’s not a power keg ready to explode at any moment. That said, if someone else is going to pay an overwhelming percentage of the deal, Bradley is a good gamble to take. He switch-hits which helps balance out the lineup against righties as the Rays right-handed bats have been every slightly below average (93 and 98 tOPS+ last two seasons; league average is 100) against right-handed pitching. Additionally, despite his worst efforts in Chicago, Bradley can play the outfield if needed in National League parks and is not the lawn statue that Burrell is when he has to put a glove on. Not to mention, he’s out-performed Burrell in wOBA each of the last three seasons, is 18 months younger, and will not be an automatic double play when he is on base.
It is unfortunate that the awesome board game Risk was produced by Parker Brothers and not the Milton Bradley company because the closing sentence to this article pretty much writes itself at that point. Still, Bradley represents the ultimate risk reward because whatever team he ends up on, that team doesn’t know if they get the 2008 numbers he put in Texas or if he spends half the season on the bench or up in the press box threatening broadcasters. Bradley is the guy that I wanted this time last year over Burrell and I maintain that stance now and I am ready to Go For Broke despite whatever Trouble or Shenanigans the trade might bring into the clubhouse.
John Romano from the St. Pete Times chimes in via video