The Cubbies entered the off-season with precious little room for error, due to their already bloated payroll and long term salary commitments, and they’ve already erred by committing two-years and $7.5 million to lefty John Grabow, who walked five batters every nine innings last season.
Now Chicago looks poised to make a second blunder. Word on the street is GM Jim Hendry is doing his best to trade Milton Bradley for pennies on the dollar.
Look, I get that Bradley is crazy — I thought Chicago was wrong to sign him in the first place. And it’s true Bradley didn’t have a great season in 2009, and his teammates and the fans and the coaching staff seem to hate him. But, as Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors pointed out, “Bradley is not the reason the Cubs received over 2,000 plate appearances of subpar hitting from Soriano, Fontenot, Soto, Hill, Hoffpauir, and Miles, nor is he the reason Ramirez was limited to 342 PAs due to a shoulder injury.”
The Cubs should try and mend fences with Bradley. Even in a down year he OBP’d .378, and it’s possible that working with new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo (who used to coach Bradley in Texas) will help him rediscover his power.
Then, Chicago should take the money that they were going to give to some team to sweeten the Bradley deal and use it instead to sign a free agent 2B — Mike Fontenot sucks! Orlando Hudson would be an affordable upgrade.
The team should also move Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot. His bottom-basement OBP is simply no longer tolerable at the top of the order.
Finally, Chicago should sign a back end bullpen arm, if they’ve got enough cash left. Fernando Rodney wouldn’t cost the team a draft pick and is coming off a season when he seemed able to elevate his game whenever the situation called for it. (Paul cringes when I say stuff like that, but the fact is Rodney managed to sustain an ERA in the mid-4.00s while only blowing one save, and that’s not easy to do.)
I’m afraid that’s about all Chicago can do, outside of tinkering with the lineup. Most of the guys the Cubs would want to move (Soriano, Zambrano, Bradley) have untradeable contracts.
But hey, here’s the good news: The Astros suck. The Brewers still don’t have any pitching. And the Cardinals could lose Joel Pineiro and John Smoltz, and are as always one Chris Carpenter injury away from mediocrity.
So just getting improved production from Soto, Soriano, et al, might be enough.