With the free agent market moving at a snails pace, the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays made two significant moves to bolster their outfield. The Cubs agreed to terms with outfielder/former designated hitter Milton Bradley, and the Rays signed former Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell.
How much will these players impact their new rosters? That seems to be a question worth asking as a fan of these two popular teams. A look at both of these players closely shows that these players are two distinct players who will contribute in different ways to their new clubs.
Milton Bradley, who spent last season with the Texas Rangers, was a highly productive player on an offensively gifted Ranger ball club. In 414 at-bats, Bradley batted .321 with 78 runs, 22 home runs, and 77 RBI. He also contributed five stolen bases.
The main issue with Milton Bradley is his health. From 2005 to 2007, Bradley played in 75, 115, and 42 games, respectively. In that same time frame, Bradley averaged close to 13 home runs a year, making 2008 seem like a bit of a fluke. Expect Bradley’s power numbers to regress to the mean: 16-18 home runs appears like a reasonable projection.
Bradley’s batting average is also primed for a fall, as well. After a close analysis of Bradley’s at-bats, one can see that Bradley focused on swinging for the fences. His bat contact rate has remained close to 82 percent over the course of his career, but it took a steep fall to 73 percent in 2008.
If he continues making contact at a 73 percent rate, don’t expect to see a batting average anywhere remotely close to .321. At the cost of $30 million over three years, Bradley seems like an overpaid risk by the Chicago Cubs.
When taking into consideration his injury history, the Cubs don’t appear to have made a very good investment with Bradley here, despite the left handed batting presence he will provide.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays agreed to terms with Pat Burrell. Overall, Burrell’s statistical profile is undoubtedly more consistent than Bradley’s. Since 2005, he has played in no fewer than 144 games: a testament to Burrell’s incredible durability. A true slugger, he has also hit no fewer than 24 home runs in a single season in the same time period.
He struggled mightily near the end of last season, falling into a terrible slump from August through September. At the age of 32, Burrell is more than likely beginning the decline in his career.
However, his power numbers should stay fairly constant, and one may consider putting his/her life on a batting average close to .250. A good value for the Rays, Burrell received a 16 million, two-year contract from the defending AL Champions. The Rays, who were a bit short on power last season, get an established, reliable veteran for the middle of their lineup.
As with any free agent signing, time will tell how both of these players perform on their new squads. When looking at both of these deals closely, however, the Tampa Bay Rays received the better deal of the two signings, signing the better player at a better price.