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We’ve all heard the greatest concern when it comes to Milton Bradley (well, except for that whole “potentially crazy” thing, but the Cubs have dealt with it admirably for the past several years…) – he’s never healthy. He can’t stay on the field. He’ll only play 100 games.

And so it goes.

In fact, that is what has already become the most resounding criticism of the three-year $30 million deal the Cubs just gave Bradley. Sure, he’s great when he plays, but is he really worth that much when he’s always on the bench?

It made me wonder. How do we know what he’s really worth if he’s not going to play a full season?

I wanted to craft a way to compare players’ salaries in an apples to apples way – sure, we can all look at two players and their respective salaries, and then debate the merits of who is worth what. But when one guy plays 140 games a year and the other plays 160, how often do we really factor the loss of 20 games into the discussion?

So let’s really take a look behind player salaries and find out just how much the Cubs are paying Milton Bradley, and then compare it against some other big time contracts. The results may surprise you.

Read about it, after the jump.

First, some assumptions/stipulations: a.) I’m only comparing hitters to hitters; b.) I’m using averages from the past four seasons (where available); c.) I’m awesome; and d.) I’m using plate appearances (literally means number of times a guy comes up to bat) instead of games played because having just one at bat in a game shows up in the stat sheet as one game played, but that’s hardly the same thing as playing a full nine with five at bats.

So how much are the Cubs paying Milton Bradley per plate appearance? Well, in Bradley’s previous five years, he’s had 509, 244, 405, and 315 plate appearances. Add ‘em up and divide by four, and you get an average of 368 (and change) plate appearances per year.

Bradley’s new deal with the Cubs (subject to some as-of-yet to be announced performance bonuses or cost savings to the Cubs built into the contract) will pay him $10 million in 2009. Now some math, close your eyes if it hurts: 10,000,000 / 368 = 27,174.

So assuming an average number of plate appearances for Milton Bradley in 2009, the Chicago Cubs will be paying him $27,174 per plate appearance.

At this point, you’re thinking three things: 1.) Holy shit; 2.) I barely make that in an entire year; and 3.) That doesn’t really tell me a whole lot.

Well I’m with you on 1 and 2, but just give me a second on number 3, all right?

I’ll spare you the drugstore mathology for the remaining calculations, and just give you what you want: the cost per plate appearance of some other major league hitters who either have large contracts or are recently-signed outfielders (based, again, on the last four years of plate appearances, and their effective salary for 2009 (spreading signing bonuses (boni?) and backloading over the life of the contract).

Albert Pujols ($14.2 M) – $21, 514 per plate appearance.

Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 M) – $40,862 per plate appearance (come on, you knew he’d be the highest).

Mark Teixiera ($22.5 M) – $33,137 per plate appearance.

Matt Holiday ($11.5 M) – $18,196 per plate appearance.

Torii Hunter ($18 M) – $31,524 per plate appearance.

Aaron Rowand ($12 M) – $20,168 per plate appearance.

Raul Ibanez ($10.5 M) – $15,373 per plate appearance.

Pat Burrell ($8 M) – $12,903 per plate appearance.

And a couple Cubs for good measure:

Aramis Ramirez ($15 M) – $25,338 per plate appearance.

Alfonso Soriano ($17 M) – $26,856 per plate appearance.

So there it is. Based on my calculations, Milton Bradley is one of the most expensive hitters in baseball and is more expensive than some guys who are – objectively and subjectively – much better hitters. Additionally, man alive is he way more expensive than the other two major free agent outfielders to sign thus far (Ibanez and Burrell – Burrell, in particular, looks like a freaking steal).

But, he’s hardly the biggest rip off out there (off of my semi-arbitrarily created list, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand scream rip city).

Now before you say it, let me concede it: these numbers are projections. Bradley could bust out a 700 plate appearance season, and the Cubs would make out like bandits. But it’s not likely.

Conclusion? I don’t really have one. I think the numbers speak for themselves. Let’s hope Milton is as dominant as he was last year, or at least plays as much as he did last year.

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