Baseball's Winter Meetings have begun, and there isn't a team with as clear-cut a mission this week as the Chicago Cubs: get rid of Milton Bradley.
It appears Cubs GM Jim Hendry will do everything in his power to unload the switch-hitting outfielder/designated hitter this week after the marriage between the volatile Bradley and the organization, and Cubs fans, went south in terribly public fashion.
The reactions to Bradley from Cubs fans could have been better. Bradley claims there were racial comments made to him from the bleachers during games, something that past Cubs disappointments Jacque Jones and Latroy Hawkins have also claimed.
But Bradley, who has a history filled with both health and temper issues, didn't help himself. He talked a lot in Spring Training, and then didn't back up his words. He also continued to hurt his cause by talking negatively about Cubs fans to the media and making hand gestures while entering the dugout.
His production was also awful to begin the season, which didn't help win the fans over.
The Cubs organization didn't help themselves, with players being split on their feelings about Bradley. When Bradley was sent home for the remainder of the season in September, many veterans spoke up about the breakdown in the clubhouse with him.
However, after he was traded, Jake Fox had a contrasting opinion of Bradley, saying he was a good teammate who was just misunderstood.
The jury on Bradley might not ever settle in Chicago's tenure, but it appears Hendry made up his mind that a change needs to happen.
Enter the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals are looking to add a bat, and have dealt with so-called "head cases" before; they're entering the third and final season of a $36 million contract with Jose Guillen.
Kansas City is looking to move some dead weight off their payroll, and might have a good match for the Cubs that would fill a need for the Cubs as well. Gil Meche has two years and $24 million left on a contract that he hasn't earned yet.
Meche's contract is closer to the two years and $21 million Bradley is owed by the Cubs than any of the players the Cubs have allegedly discussed yet. Pat Burrell and Luis Castillo are both in the final years of contracts, meaning the Rays and Mets would be asking the Cubs to send a substantial amount of cash with Bradley in any deal.
Where Meche fills a need for the Cubs is as a bottom-of-the-rotation starter. The Cubs will probably lose Rich Harden to free agency after not offering the righty arbitration; the Red Sox and Mariners appear to be interested in Harden and would likely pay more than the Cubs for his services.
Meche, 31, would likely slide into the fourth or fifth spot in the Cubs' rotation, between Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells. In 2009, Meche was 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.
Over the last three years, Meche is 4-7 with a 4.23 ERA in April, though. In fact, his 3.91 ERA before the All Star break over the past three seasons is significantly lower than his performances after the break (4.24).
The Cubs need a reliable starter to eat innings to start the season while they're without Ted Lilly, who's coming back from shoulder surgery.
Even without winning as many games, or statistically performing as well as a three-year, $36 million deal would warrant, Meche has still thrown a lot of innings (555 over the past three years) and would at least give a healthy, durable arm to the bottom of the Cubs' rotation.
The problems with bringing in Meche, though, isn't completely statistical. The Cubs have a number of young starters, including Jeff Samardzija and Jay Jackson, that would figure to see their chances at breaking into the rotation disappear, at least for 2009, if the Cubs brought in Meche.
Meche would, however, be a better fit both financially and defensively than Burrell and would be a better financial fit than Castillo. By finding a suitor that would likely take on all of Bradley's contract, even perhaps sending cash with Meche to complete the deal, the Cubs would have more flexibility to add another outfielder the caliber of Mike Cameron, who has been rumored to be at the top of the Cubs' wish list.
For a great read on Cameron's suitability with the Cubs, check out a recent article by Danny Sisto .
It will be interesting where Bradley ends up in 2010, and what the obligations are for the Cubs to move him. If the Royals, and Meche, are the answer, it could help the Cubs.