Bradley Signs with Chicago, Finally

Milton Bradley and the Cubs have agreed in principle to a three year, $30 million contract sources indicate. How does this signing rate?

For one, it comes at the same time as the Rays nabbing Pat Burrell on a fantastic contract which should have helped depress the market a bit for players of Bradley’s ilk. First of all, Bradley is a fantastic hitter, capable of being worth around 40 runs over average per 600 PAs. Now, we shouldn’t and won’t project Bradley to hit that well, but he has shown in the past that his ceiling is around that mark. He’s also an above average fielder (though not by much). Those are the good bits.

The bad bit is that 600 PAs is not going to happen. It’s never happened before and it’s extremely unlikely to happen starting at age 31. Here’s a list of Milton Bradley‘s games played in the outfield over the years, and as a percentage of total games played

Until 2008, Bradley has been devoted to playing the outfield, and in a vast majority of those years, he has suffered from injury. He has logged over 100 games in the field just once, 2004, his entire career. As an outfielder, Bradley could potentially still play center field and be adequate, or be above average in a corner slot. All in all, giving him a neutral rating for defense and position is a safe enough projection. It’s likely to be within five or so runs of his final tally. As a hitter, his projection is for about 25 runs over average per 600 PAs. Add in 20 runs for replacement, and you have yourself a 4.5 win player, exceedingly valuable and worth $20 million a year on a one-year deal, $18 million on a multi-year.

The problem is that as an outfielder, there is little justification for projecting more than 300-400 PAs per year from Bradley, and even that strikes me as potentially too optimistic. As a DH, we could have been more optimistic and looked at him as close to a full time hitter. Then again, as a DH, Bradley would lose around 20 runs worth of defensive value so the increase in playing time would have to immense to make it worth it. Of course, Bradley cannot DH now that he has signed with a National League team, so outfield it is. Given that we have to chop his projected value in half. Coincidentally, or not, that leaves us with almost an exact match to Bradley’s contract, meaning that for the value that you expect Bradley to provide, the Cubs appear to be correctly factoring in his health concerns.

That’s not to let them completely off the hook though, because there’s still the matter of what to do with the other 300 PAs while Bradley is on the disabled list and ignores that in order to clear payroll room for Bradley, the Cubs markedly undersold on Mark DeRosa, a player who, by the way, has been more valuable than Bradley each of the past three seasons and was signed for just $5.5 million and only through 2009.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Mike Newman

Excellent piece! You are right on the money with DeRosa. That deal makes no sense when he’s replaced with a bum like Miles. Hopefully Fontenot gets the nod even though I’d like to see what Cedeno can do finally.