At a winter meetings a few years back, a good guy and a trusted source came up to me and said, "Hey, was Dusty's visit to Milton Bradley one to recruit Bradley to the Cubs or Dusty to the Dodgers?" As much as many Cubs fans back then would have liked Dusty Baker to go and manage the Dodgers, Ol' Dusty was trying to sell the Cubs to Bradley.
Bradley, the mercurial outfielder who set a Texas Rangers record this year with an on-base percentage of .436, is a free agent this winter. He also hits left-handed, which is No. 1 on the Cubs' to-do list (ahead of Jake Peavy) as the team gets set to travel to Las Vegas over the weekend for the winter meetings.
Even though you've got to take all of what goes with Milton Bradley, he'd look pretty good in a Cubs uniform. Not only did he have an OBP of .436, but he had a slugging percentage of .536, giving him an OPS of .999. Guess what? That led the American League.
The Rangers offered Bradley salary arbitration, if for no other reason than they'll get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. Bradley made a base salary this year of $5.25 million. He's in line for a nice raise, but he's sure to come in cheaper than other left-handed hitters, such as Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibanez. The free-agent market this year is as slow as I've seen it since perhaps the collusion days, and even players such as Abreu and Ibanez might find it difficult to get the multiyear deals they want. So the Cubs can afford a little patience here.
Now, Bradley is no stranger to confrontation, but Lou Piniella gets paid the big bucks to manage the clubhouse, and he does a pretty good job of it. With guys like Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Geovany Soto, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster already there, Bradley should have no problems, and nor should the Cubs.
Let's keep an eye on this one.
Elsewhere, the Cubs still are interested in Peavy, but they're willing to wait. The Cubs will have to move some money, and yesterday's trade by the White Sox of Javy Vazquez should give Cubs GM Jim Hendry reasonable hope that Jason Marquis can draw some interest, even if the Cubs do have to pick up some of the $9.8 or so million Marquis has left on the last year of his deal. Marquis can be a decent fifth starter on most teams and a good fourth starter on some others. There are stats more important than wins when it comes to judging a pitcher, but Marquis has won 65 games over the last five years, and no doubt some GM somewhere will value that.
Bob Howry signed with the Giants today. And the Cubs brought back old friend Chad Fox on a minor-league deal. Fox doesn't have a file folder for his medical history. He's got the whole cabinet. That's OK. He's still one of the nicest and most decent guys I've ever met in all my years of covering baseball. He'll make for another nice human-interest story come spring training.