Here at Bleacher Nation, we consider it our duty to report any and all rumors involving the Chicago Cubs, no matter how unlikely. Frankly, that’s how we get involved in these obsessive watches.
That said, many of the “rumors” are not, strictly speaking, actually rumors. They are ideas, offered by journalists and other experts in the field, based on a series of considerations and conclusions that simply make sense. They are more of a this-is-not-actually-a-rumor-but-it-should-be-because-it-makes-too-much-sense-given-what-I-know type rumor. But I’m not going to type that every time, so you’ll just have to settle for “rumor.”
With that in mind, it occurred to me recently: why have there been no rumors linking the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, with respect to Milton Bradley?
The Atlanta Braves, quietly, are in the market for a corner outfield bat to insert into the middle of their lineup. Naturally, the Cubs themselves faced this very kind of search last year, and probably would not be in the best position to recommend Bradley as a middle of the lineup type of hitter. Then again, Bradley’s dip in power production in 2009 seems like more of an exception rather than the rule. Bradley’s greatest strength, to be sure, is his discipline at the plate, but he will always bring a certain measure of pop.
The Atlanta Braves, not so quietly, are also in the market to move one of their starting pitchers. After locking up Tim Hudson to an extension, the Braves now have six clear starting pitchers for five starting spots. Could they place a guy in the bullpen? Sure. But they would obviously prefer to move one of the starters. Most of the rumors thus far (and they’ve been surprisingly sparse) have centered on Javier Vazquez, and why wouldn’t they? He’s set to make a healthy $11.5 million this year. But then again, he was absolutely dominant for the Braves in 2009 – sporting a 2.87 ERA and a 143 ERA+. If they are going to move Vazquez, they’ll move him to get top talent, not simply to dump a starting pitcher.
They would prefer, if at all possible, to instead trade Derek Lowe. Lowe, 36, was improvidently signed to a four year deal by the Braves before the 2009 season, which will pay him $15 million per year over the next three years. That albatross of a contract would seemingly make trading Lowe an impossibility. Unless, of course, it was for another albatross. Er, another albatross of a contract.
Enter the Cubs and Milton Bradley. Bradley’s contract, to be sure, is less egregious than Lowe’s. Bradley is owed just $21 million over the next two years, so the money may not be a perfect fit. Then again, if the Cubs are presently willing to eat as much as $15 million of Bradley’s deal just to dump him, then a hypothetical Bradley/Lowe swap can be thought of as the Cubs getting Lowe for $30 million over three years as opposed to $45 million.
But would the Cubs actually want Lowe? Lowe, unlike Vazquez, was largely ineffective in his first year with the Braves. He put up a 4.67 ERA, and an 88 OPS+ (recall, 100 is average). Of course, in the four consecutive years before 2009, he had been quite good. Was 2009 the beginning of the end, or a blip on the radar? Hard to know for sure.
With Rich Harden on the way out, and Ted Lilly rehabbing from shoulder surgery, the Cubs are thin in the starting pitching ranks. For all the talk about the lineup, no one wants to seem to mention the fact that the Cubs are set to open the 2010 season with a rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, and two question marks. Might Jeff Samardzija and Tom Gorzelanny, for example, fill those question marks adequately? Maybe. But might Randy Wells, himself, be something of a question mark after coming out of nowhere last year? Maybe. Might the Cubs be open to adding another starting pitcher? Maybe. And they probably should be.
It is possible that the Braves have absolutely no interest in Milton Bradley, regardless of need or fit, and the discussion ends there. But if they’d consider it for a moment, I think they’d find this makes a lot of sense. So I guess it’s a “rumor.”