Bad contract swap meet

One of the biggest topics at the winter meetings this week is the fate of a number of major leaguers who will likely be on the move because their contracts are albatrosses to their teams’ respective bottom lines. We’ve all heard about the Cubs’ desire to extricate themselves from Milton Bradley and that he may be sent to Tampa in exchange for the nine million bucks owed to Pat Burrell. Of course, the Cubs don’t really need another left fielder with defensive issues so perhaps they’d be interested in the Mets’ Luis Castillo.

Meanwhile, the Braves have decided after just one year that the four year, $60 million contract they gave Derek Lowe was a bad move and are trying to pawn him off on anyone who will take him. Perhaps no team is looking to divorce themselves from as many bad contracts this week as the Tigers are.

**Last year, Derek Lowe was one of the hottest starters on the market. He’s on the market again this year, but this time it’s because the Braves are trying to unload his contract.** (Icon/SMI)

Besides shopping Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, neither of whom have bad contracts by the way, the Tigers are interested in unloading pitchers Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis as well as middle of the order sluggers Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. Any takers?

Other players with high dollar contracts and mid-market performance who are rumored to be on the move include Juan Pierre, Jeff Suppan, Kevin Millwood, Gil Meche, Gary Matthews, Jr.and Adam Dunn. And this is just a list of those players who are (probably) tradeable. Teams can forget about trading those with the most outlandish contracts: Alfonso Soriano, Barry Zito, Carlos Lee, Todd Helton, and Vernon Wells.

So it seems as though these teams plan to swap the bad contracts around in order to fill a hole, open up a hole that can be filled through another acquisition, or see if the player can recapture their luster in a new environment. The Cubs, obviously, have to find a taker for Bradley but it does them no good to replace him with Burrell because his defensive deficiencies and relegation to left field will force them to turn around and trade him. It makes sense for the Dodgers to trade Pierre for pitching help but what good does Pierre do for the Brewers if they’re able to send Suppan westward? Will anyone really give the Brew Crew a pitcher of worth in exchange for Corey Hart? Is Luis Castillo and his combined 2.2 WAR and -15 UZR over the last two seasons really going to help someone? Does anyone really want the $23 million still owed to Matthews, even if it enables them to get rid of Bradley or Bonderman? Why would the Royals give up on Meche simply because he had just one injury plagued season in 2009?

Of those bad contracts up for grabs, Meche, Lowe, and of course, Bradley, are the most likely to truly help the teams that acquire them. (I expect the Tigers will find Cabrera untradeable.) And though he’s thrown less than 83 innings over the last two seasons, Bonderman could really help a team if he’s able to regain his velocity and get back to throwing strikes. Still, these teams are mostly just spinning their wheels when they’re spending their time trying to trade one bad contract for another while their competitors are working to improve their teams. With any luck, teams will learn that overpaying for middle of the road talent costs them more than money in the long run.

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I don’t think the Royals are “giving up” on Gil Meche, or even really actively shopping him – but they are getting inquiries on him.  There’s a difference.  And from what Dayton Moore has said in the last day or so, if he trades him he wants a pretty good package in return, which tells me he’s not going anywhere.

Now, if you want a bad contract in KC, I have a certain Jose Guillen for sale…cheap!