Unpredictable Milton Bradley Should Fit in Well on Chicago's North Side

Jonathan MannContributor IJanuary 5, 2009

Predictability is a GM’s best friend. Whether its 200 innings from Johan Santana or 200 hits from Ichiro, such no-brainers constitute the dreams of baseball brass around the league.

Such consistency is lacking with Milton Bradley, who will likely sign a three-year deal with the North Siders for $30 million. Whether you chalk it up to an immature temper, injuries, or both, Bradley is a roller coaster with his performance and emotions.

Though most will concede that Game Board is a shell of his former ball bag-throwing self, every season seems to bring its own incident for Bradley. In 2007, his coach-induced injury late in the season was a major hit to the Padres’ playoff hopes.

And in an ironic episode in Kansas City during his solo season with Texas, Ranger GM Jon Daniels had to restrain Bradley from confronting a radio announcer because of remarks regarding his attitude issues.

In 2008, however, Bradley delivered a career season on the field. He led the American League in OBP, finished third in average, mashed 22 dingers, earned a start in the All-Star Game, and protected the midseason MVP in Josh Hamilton.

Bradley’s .341/.476/.651 line against RHP last season will be a welcome addition to a righty-heavy Cubs lineup that made Lowe/Billingsley/Kuroda look like an unstoppable three-headed monster in the NLDS.

The knocks on Bradley are numerous, but perhaps the most crucial is his high number of games missed. He has played in 100 games in only three seasons during his career and is averaging 91 games per season, 56 percent of the standard 162 games per year. And last season, Bradley played only 20 games in the outfield, logging the other 97 starts at DH.

Luckily, the Cubs are deep with outfielders, and Bradley won’t be needed for 150-plus games. To keep him rested, the staff can give him occasional days off, move CF Kosuke Fukudome to his ’07 position in RF, and insert either Reed Johnson or newly acquired Joey Gathright—depending on the starting pitcher—in center.

The Cubbies faithful, now mindful more than ever of budget concerns with the club up for sale, will inevitably question Bradley’s price tag. According to FanGraphs, however, Bradley’s value in each of the past three seasons has eclipsed the $10-million mark, reaching $16.9 million last year.

Others consider Bradley inferior to other outfield options, such as Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. But any baseball fan should shudder at the thought of Dunn and Alfonso Soriano showcasing their glove skills in the same outfield. And at 30 years old, Bradley is four years the junior of Abreu, who is approaching the twilight years of a position player and would likely demand a bigger contract.

Pending a duplication of Bradley’s 2008 season to some degree, the Cubs will be able to effectively replace the production of recently-traded Mark DeRosa and continue the offensive success they themselves enjoyed a season ago. If Bradley stays in Chicago for the length of his new contract (disregarding options), he will have done something he has yet to do in his nine-year career—wear one uniform for longer than two years.