The Bradley Conundrum

There’s one pending free agent who, I will happily admit, I have no idea what kind of contract he is going to get this winter. I feel like no matter what I guess, I have a great chance of being amazingly wrong, because there are so many positives and so many negatives in the equation.

That player, of course, is Milton Bradley.

On the plus side, he’s been the best hitter in the American League this year. Combined with his excellent 2007 performance, he’s now strung together 515 at-bats of MVP caliber offense. He’s a switch-hitter, he gets on base, he hits for power, and he can still run a little bit. He’s just 30 years old and is showing no signs of physical decline. And, while he’s DH’d most of this year, he can still play a decent corner outfield if need be.

However, this is still the same guy who wore out his welcome in Montreal, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Oakland. This is a guy who has gotten more than 400 at-bats in a season once in his entire career. This is a guy who has fought with coaches, teammates, and fans. He’s a guy with with a 1.282 OPS in Texas and an .852 OPS on the road.

His Marcel true talent level pegs him as a .291/.388/.502 hitter, which makes him the best hitter available this winter. That should earn him a nice paycheck, but if he decides he wants to stay at DH, that rules out half the teams in baseball as suitors. If a team pursues him as an outfielder, can they count on him to play more than half a season?

And, of course, there’s the personality stuff. He’s done well in Texas, but when four franchises have already decided that he’s not worth the headache, there’s a real reason why. Would he fit in with a new club? Or wear out his welcome in Texas?

It seems like the best fit is for him to stay in Texas, where he’s found his greatest success and seems genuinely happy. But how much should the Rangers give him to DH when they already have more bats than spots in the line-up while they’re rebuilding?

I could see Bradley getting a 4 year, $50 million contract from someone. I could see Bradley settling for a one year, $10 million deal. I could see anything in between.

What would you offer Milton Bradley this winter?

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

13 Responses to “The Bradley Conundrum”

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  1. drew226 says:

    Wow. This is the toughest question ever. I would try getting him to accept an incentive laden contract to looks something like this.

    • 1 year / 7mil (2009), plus 2010-2011 vesting option
    o 09: $7M, 10: $11M vesting option, 11: $12M vesting option
    o 2010 option guaranteed with 450 PAs 2009
    o 2011 option guaranteed with 925 PAs 2010-2011

    Those of you familiar with the Cot’s Contracts site can tell that ripped off how they break down contract details. With that said, I’m not sure how a team could justify giving him guaranteed money for 2 or more years with his personality and health issues.

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  2. drew226 says:

    My apologies. The 2011 option line should read…

    o 2011 option guaranteed with 925 PAs 2009-2010

    not 2010-2011.

    Carry on.

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  3. Scappy says:

    I doubt that Bradley would go for an incentive based deal. Typically those only work out for old stars that are past their prime and recovering from an injury.

    The teams that should be looking at a 30 y/o DH / corner outfielder are ones that are a piece or two away from making the playoffs. This narrows things down quite a bit.


    I left Texas in the mix because he is already there. I don’t see the Rays or Twins going after him for “charachter” and cost reasons, but I think he would be a welcome addition to the Twins line-up.

    The Yankees have an option on Giambi for 22MM which I do not see them picking up, that is just a ton of money for an aging slugger. They also owe Matsui and Damon 13MM each in 09. It would be a little awkward for 2009 trying to find a first baseman (Teixera, maybe Damon) and / or platooning Matsui, Bradley, and Damon in and out of the DH spot. Add in that Posada is not getting any younger and they just might not have enough spots in the lineup to go around. (I think that Damon could make a pretty good first baseman with the proper work outs in the off season. He is a lefty with a weak arm, under contract for another year, and he can’t be any worse than Giambi.)

    The Angels could always use some protection for Vlad in their line-up, but they don’t strike me as the team to go after Bradley. They will probably try and sign Teixera and call it a day.

    He could want to stay in Texas where he is comfortable, but he will probably just go with who offers the most money.

    All of that said I either see a one year deal with a team option for the second or a longer 5-6 year deal to lock him up through the rest of his career. With the shorter contracts he is probably going to make about 13MM a year, and he could average as low as 9 or 10 with a longer term contract.

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  4. drew226 says:

    I agree. I highly doubt he would go for the offer I proposed but I was just answering Dave’s question. I’d even consider bumping up the dough to maybe 10mil the first year to be competitive with other potential suitors but I would still want some control after that first year. I’d hate to have 11-13 mil sitting on the DL for most of the year, especially for a team that is a “piece or two” away from contending. Those clubs couldn’t handle that type of roster hit, otherwise they wouldn’t be a piece or two away.

    I just took a quick look at Bradley’s game log. He’s played in 92 of a possible 115 games. 7 of the 92 games he’s played appear to be pinch hitting role, mostly likely result of a nagging injury that limited him to pinch hitting duties. Essentially he’s been unavailable for about 25% of his team’s games. He’s on pace for 119 games played. This would be his second best games played total and he’s still been dinged up to the tune of 23 games missed and 7 pinch hit games or two DL stints, if you will. I don’t see him continuing this trend (Wow 120 games a year!) and I wouldn’t think it prudent to lock this guy up long term.

    On second thought, I didn’t think Carlos Silva would get a 4 yr deal worth over 40 million, so I guess anything is possible.

    It’s a shame that Bradley has had some many injuries and has had so many on and off field issues. Imagine the numbers he could have put up if he could have managed to stay on the field?

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  5. dan says:

    Yankees aren’t signing him…. they already have 3 well-paid outfielders and a DH under contract for next season. If they sign an offensive player, it will be a first baseman to replace Giambi.

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  6. Jason says:

    Dave, not that I’m in favor of the M’s signing Bradley, but how do you think he does in Safeco?

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  7. Ross says:

    As a Rangers fan I love the guy as a teammate, a player, and a person. To be honest I wasn’t happy when we signed him last winter and figured he would wear out his welcome in the first few months then he’d abandon ship. All he has done is be a great teammate and happen to tear the cover off the ball, especially in Arlington. He has had some injury issues but nothing serious. It seems to me that it has been small injuries that the team is holding him back so they don’t risk it keeping him out for an extended period of time.

    With that said I expect him to sign a 3 year deal with the Rangers worth between $24-30 million.

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  8. Sky says:

    Dan, if the Yankees think Bradley can play left field, a great lineup would be Bradley in LF, Damon in CF, Nady in RF, and Matsui at DH. Giambi would make a fine DH (ideally at less than $22MM) but Matsui’s a liability in the field. And don’t get me started on Abreu, who doesn’t have Giambi’s bat and can’t seem to play the field any more.

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  9. Moosed says:

    What about free agent compensation? Bradley will most likely be a Type A free agent again. Is it worth it to give up the picks and the years and the money for a guy who usually has trouble reaching 400 PAs a year due to health problems? I would think a contending team with a need for offense and a deep farm system would be most likely to gamble on him for a multi-year contract, like the Rays, especially if they could get him for a little less than 10 million a year for 2 or 3 years.

    Either way, wouldn’t Texas be smartest to offer him salary arbitration, let him decline, and then let him sign elsewhere and get some draft picks for him. I know he’s been very productive, but Texas has a loaded lineup and his consistent lack of playing time is a big alarm. I think the Rangers aren’t going to be a serious contender next year with their current pitching staff, even if they retained Bradley. And by the time their pitching catches up, Justin Smoak will probably be in the big leagues tearing it up anyway.

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  10. dan says:


    Yankees don’t like playing Damon in CF all the time. He’s a fill-in there. IIRC, most fielding metrics say he’s pretty good out there, but it seems both Torre and Girardi disagree.

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  11. evan says:

    The only people Bradley wore his welcome with with were Paul Lo Duca, Jeff Kent (two shining lights there) and the unabashedly racist sports media with whom Bradley doesn’t feel the need to cooperate with.

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  12. Kazinski says:

    Evan, that is a ridiculous statement. Bradley has has so many problems so many places that it is past ludicrous to say that Bradley isn’t major part of the problem. The incident with the umpire last year for example, lets take as a given that the umpire was way out line and Bradley was intentionally provoked. He still way overreacted, to the point it shows a volatile temper under very little control. He ended up hurting himself and his team.

    That said I think Bradley would be a good risk for an AL team, for one he is over 30 and that seems to do a lot for toning down a player. Look at Jose Guillen and Albert Belle, both became significantly less trouble as they aged. There may even be hope for Eliha Dukes when he gets a little older.

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  13. Tom Au says:

    How about splitting the difference and offering him a two-year $25 million contract?

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