Milton Bradley coming to Chicago is good and bad news. The 3 year 30 million dollar deal he was given by the Cubs Monday has been splashed all over the sports media outlets, but what does it mean for the Cubs? For starters, we have to look at how it came to this.
Two things led to the sense that an acquisition of someone like Milton Bradley was necessary for the Cubs to have more success than last season. The first is Kosuke Fukudome. Even now I still want to like Kosuke. He seems like a hard worker that plays the game the right way (and I wasted $25 on a Fuku jersey tee). Unfortunately his average, which was around .325 6 weeks into the season, took a huge dip. Even though he was still drawing walks, he could not hit. Not only that, but the little he did hit was not for power. The second thing, which is tied directly to the first, is the perception that the lack of a power hitting left handed bat is what caused the Cubs to falter in October. There is no reason to discuss the faultiness of that rationale here, but suffice it to say that perception created the "need" for a player like Milton Bradley.
There is no question that Milton Bradley is a talented player. In 9 seasons he has an OBP of .370 and a SLG of .457. Unfortunately he has only played in 817 games during that time, an average of 93 games a year. As someone recently pointed out to me, his career arc through his first 9 seasons is eerily similar to that of Carl Everett's (844 games, .349 OBP, .477 SLG) in not only statistics but also attitude. While Bradley has been effective when he's played, he's been a bane to the teams he was on while he was not playing.
Was Bradley a good acquisition for the Cubs? The injury history should make all Cubs fans a bit cautious, as should the theatrics and behavior problems of his past. There is no way to predict whether he will stay healthy, though it seems like a good bet that he will not, but in terms of his behavior there really is nothing to worry about. Lou Pinella will be able to control Bradley. He does not take much crap from anyone, and Milton Bradley will be no exception. Pinella will have Bradley playing by the rules or he won't be playing.
What about the outfield, you ask? Well if Bradley stays healthy and sane (that's a big if), the outfield should work out just fine. Soriano in left, Fukudome/Gathright in center, and Bradley in right. Obviously the corner positions will leave something to be desired defensively, but Fukudome and Gathright are fast enough to help pick up the slack. ***UPDATE: Reed Johnson can also get starts at any of the 3 outfield positions to give guys a rest or fill in when someone gets hurt, which is likely. (Thanks to reader Cousin Danis for reminding me about Reed).
One last quick note: Whether this works out or not, the loss of Mark DeRosa to clear cap space was unfortunate and will cost the team. He was a beloved player in the clubhouse and among fans. Besides that he had a career year at the plate and his versatility in the field will be missed. Good luck De-Ro.