Cubs nation, our long national nightmare may at last be over.
After two full fruitless months of maneuvering toward a deal, Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry has found a suitor for disgruntled outfielder Milton Bradley . Bradley is headed to Seattle, in a trade that will net the Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Silva and $6 million in cash.
Silva, who will turn 31 in April, had two consecutive seasons of misery in Seattle. After signing a four-year deal worth nearly $50 million before the 2008 season, Silva posted a putrid 6.81 ERA in just 183 2/3 innings over the first half of that contract.
Although he has always shown immaculate control, his low strikeout rate and high home run rate made him an unwise investment from day one.
Not even the pitcher-friendly dimensions of Seattle's SafeCo Field, nor the Mariners' spectacular outfield defense, could save Silva from a breakdown. He threw only 30 1/3 innings in eight games last season, while battling injury.
Yet, despite the flaws, Silva has undeniable potential. He will need to regain the exceptional control he demonstrated from 2004-07 in Minnesota, and the Cubs (who will now turn their attention to the free-agent market for centerfielders) will need to make certain that the fly-ball machine Silva has a decent outfield defense behind him.
They took the first step in the right direction in that respect by trading Bradley, which will allow Kosuke Fukudome to move back to right field, where he is exceptional defensively. The move also nets Chicago a bit more monetary flexibility, with which they can pursue top center field target Marlon Byrd.
If they do all of that, they stand a good chance of seeing some recovery from Silva. He won't be anywhere near the class of their rotation, but he makes either Tom Gorzelanny or Sean Marshall expendable, which could allow Hendry to shore up what is at present a mediocre bench. Silva fits decently into the fifth spot on the Cubs' starting staff, given those assumptions.
Seattle, meanwhile, makes out well in its own right here. The switch-hitting Bradley will presumably share DH and left-field duties with left-handed hitter Ken Griffey Jr. and right-handed Bill Hall, unless Seattle still intends to pursue free agents Matt Holliday, Jason Bay or Johnny Damon. The triad currently in place, though, has tremendous potential for offensive production.
Bradley can flourish in the infinitely more laid-back world of Seattle, where baseball ranks third at best among sporting interests and where the media is far less scrutinizing. Seattle has made a number of astute moves this off-season, and this may have been the piece they needed to move to the front of a very competitive American League West.
Silva doesn't quite do the same for Chicago, but he adds pitching depth and flexibility, and Hendry should consider his job well done, if done too late. The Cubs may have missed their shots at the winter's top two available centerfielders (Curtis Granderson and Mike Cameron), but they are well in line to land their third choice, Byrd, and they could yet be the team to beat in the National League Central by the time next April 5 arrives.