Mets fans had a look at Milton Bradley and his antics this past weekend in Chicago. The talented but unpredictable outfielder has fallen out of favor with Cubs manager Lou Piniella as well as Cubs fans. More importantly (for some), his on-field performance has been slightly disappointing. Coming off a career year with Texas in 2008 (.423 wOBA), Bradley's power has evaporated to the tune of a .420 SLG. This is less of a problem considering his OBP is a robust .401, but factoring defense and position it looks like he'll be a league average performer this season. Not bad, but not what the Cubs had in mind when they signed him for three years, $30 million this past offseason. Considering all this, it's a safe bet that Bradley could be had in a trade.
Bradley's skin is as thin as it gets. He's being badmouthed in restaurants he eats at and it bothers him. The world is against him. If he can't handle Chicago, how would he fare New York? No one can answer this question definitively, but when a player is producing, off the field troubles seem to dissipate. Two things we do know: (1) he has some issues; and (2) when healthy, he's a productive baseball player.
Let's peg Bradley at 2.5 WAR over each of the next 2 seasons, with the possibility of 4-5 WAR. This is based on a projected .365 wOBA and 0 < x < 5 run defense. When was the last time the Mets had a corner OF worth more than 2 WAR (Fangraphs version)? Moises Alou in 2007. How about greater than 3 WAR? Cliff Floyd in 2005. It's time for the Mets to stop fielding garbage at the corner OF positions. Bradley is no Matt Holliday but he would be a significant upgrade over the current organizational options for 2010. He reminds me of Nick Swisher but with a higher batting average and less durability.
Given the Mets' financial position, a player with a comparable contract to Bradley's would have to be shipped to the Cubs. The best options are Luis Castillo and Frankie Rodriguez. Let's compare the 3 contracts going forward, courtesy of Cot's:
- Bradley: 2 years, $21 million
- Castillo: 2 years, $12 million
- Rodriguez: 2 years, $23 million (with a $17.5 million vesting option that regularly appears in my nightmares)
Castillo has had a nice season, but he's going on 34 years old and his defense is rapidly declining. He will likely have a hard time matching his 2009 performance from 2010-2011. However, unless the Cubs pick up a large portion of Bradley's contract, a trade involving Castillo seems unlikely. Frankie seems like the best fit in this hypothetical trade. The Cubs are hurting for a closer, with Kevin Gregg recently removed from the role and Carlos Marmol walking a ridiculous 8.35 per 9 innings. Worried about who will close for the Mets? Here is a list of useful soon-to-be free agent relievers: Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Kiko Calero, Brandon Lyon, Jose Valverde, and Trever Miller.
Bottom line: I would rather see Bradley in the Mets outfield next year than some kind of Jeremy Reed/Cory Sullivan/Chris Carter jumble. Especially if it means shedding a cumbersome contract.