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There’s been so much smoke surrounding the Chicago Cubs’ efforts to swing a deal with Tampa Bay involving Milton Bradley and Pat Burrell that we’re all choking on it. Still no fire, but that could be coming as soon as next week, at the Winter Meetings.

If Pat Burrell is already a foregone conclusion, perhaps the more pressing question is then what? The Cubs are highly unlikely to keep Burrell, so where might they spin him off? The New York Post suggests maybe the Mets.

I hear that a trade of Tampa Bay’s Pat Burrell for the Cubs’ Milton Bradley is still a strong possibility. Burrell is due $9 million next year while Bradley has two years at $21 million left. Bradley also makes $9 million next year, so the sticking point is how much of the 2011 $12 million contract the Cubs are willing to absorb to complete a trade. My hunch is that the Cubs would have to eat at least half and make that a $6 million contract for the Rays in 2011.

If the Cubs go through with this trade they are looking at two poor left fielders who both swing righty – Burrell and Alfonso Soriano – on the roster. So this is totally my speculation, but I wonder if the Cubs would then do a trade built around Burrell for Luis Castillo. NY Post.

Yeah, he says total speculation and all that, but I’ll take the speculation of a guy who covers the Mets as a little something more than that – at a minimum, it means he knows that Pat Burrell is a guy that the Mets would consider.

If this semi-three-way swap sounds familiar, it should. The idea of sending Bradley to Texas, Castillo to the Cubs, and Kevin Millwood to the Mets was earlier rumored, and shot down.

Castillo, though profoundly unsexy at this point in his career, does make some sense for the Cubs. He can man second base, spelled by Jeff Baker against lefties, for this year, until Starlin Castro is ready to take over at shortstop, pushing Ryan Theriot over to second base.

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