Seattle pulls wool over Cubs eyes with Bradley-Silva swap

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times first reported that Milton Bradley, who will go down in Cubs infamy, has been swapped to the Seattle Mariners for starting pitcher Carlos Silva. Like Bradley, Silva will go down in M’s infamy as one of the last disastrous moves made by former GM Bill Bavasi… except that Silva’s final parting shot was gift-wrapping the Mariners the 2010 AL Division title.

Make no mistake about it, the Bradley acquisition officially puts the Mariners over the top. Before the move, while I still had Seattle as my early favorites to win the division, I could easily see a scenario where Texas or the Angels could pull it out. I don’t see such a scenario anymore.

Cubs vs. White Sox

The club still doesn’t have a first-baseman or catcher (for now), but does it even matter anymore?

What Bradley brings to the team is much-needed offensive firepower.

The name of the game in baseball is to have the highest run differential possible. This means that run prevention is absolutely a tool to be used, and you’re seeing an increased emphasis on defense across the board. Seattle, under the reign of GM Jack Zduriencik, has been the poster boy on this particular subject. The run prevention defense (jeez, I feel like I’m talking about football here) will stifle opposing teams.

But what about scoring runs? It’s not always just about defense. You’ve got to score runs, too. Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins should be playmakers atop the batting order, but past that there was no offensive threat.

No longer.

Bradley has his warts, but offense is certainly not one of those warts. In a season where he struggled to adapt to a new team and battle injuries, he batted .257/.378/.397 for a .775 OPS. This OPS, by the way, trails just Ichiro, Jose Lopez and Franklin Gutierrez (barely) on the ’10 iteration of the team — and that was during an off-year by Bradley.

The year before, in Texas, Bradley had an obscene .321/.436/.563 line, and while he may be hard-pressed to match that, is anyone writing off a .277/.371/.450 line? Those are his career slash stats, which Bradley should have no trouble exceeding in 2010.

Bradley’s line-drive percentage in Texas was 24.7 percent, which is a figure he only reaches every once in a blue moon. He generally sits around 18-19 percent, which is among his career norms so I don’t see much potential for a major backslide statistically ala 2009. A big red flag as to his problems in Chicago is his ground ball rate, which was 46.9 percent. Given his career averages at 45.5 percent, it may not seem like a big deal that his ground ball rate nearly matched that this past season. However, Bradley’s two best offensive seasons — 2007-8 — had ground ball rates around 40 percent. Could it be injuries that prevented Bradley from getting the loft on the ball that he used to? Maybe. It’s something to watch, especially at Safeco Field where Bradley will be best served getting some loft on the ball and taking advantage of the gaps.

Joining his eighth team in 11 seasons, hopefully Bradley can fit into an atmosphere that seems like it’s aligned to be the home he never had. I asked Dave Cameron of USS Mariner how the Seattle media was via Twitter, and he said there is “super low pressure” — and that Seattle’s media is the kindest in baseball. While it’s possible that may be hyperbole, it doesn’t seem that far from the truth.

Then you have manager Don Wakamatsu, who by all indications is a player’s manager. That’s never stopped Bradley in the past from wearing out his welcome, but it can only help, right?

Bradley figures to toggle between left-field — where he’s a decent defender — and designated hitter, which should mitigate his propensity for getting injured. It will pin Ken Griffey, Jr. to the bench with Michael Saunders the other beneficiary, which is a good thing.

In exchange for acquiring a middle of the order hitter — attitude warts and all, who had a relatively tame stint in Texas and will find himself surrounded by “good guys” like Ken Griffey, Jr. — the team gives up someone making more money than Bradley — $24 million over the next two years, as opposed to $21. (Seattle will pay $9 million of Silva’s contract which is not really much of a consolation prize.)

Mariners vs. Royals

Silva was Bavasi’s poster child for futility. He inked a four-year, $48 million deal with the Mariners after 2007. To no one’s surprise, Silva’s sinker backslid terribly to an ugly 6.46 ERA in 28 starts. His xFIP of 4.64 gave some fans hope, but he followed up with 30.1 innings of a 8.60 ERA in 2009 and 5.53 xFIP. Ouch, ouch and triple-ouch. (Yes, Silva went down with right shoulder inflammation in early May and did not return until late September, but it is difficult to ascribe his numbers to the injury.)

True, Silva will likely benefit from the move to the NL Central, but his success in Minnesota was simply because of his fastball flashing above-average stuff every now and then. His fastball is decidedly mediocre these days. The best the Cubs can hope for is for a Jeff Suppan-like season at the back of the rotation… and how is that going to help the Cubs? Answer: not at all. The Cubs significantly downgraded from Bradley, which, granted was inevitable. What was not inevitable is who they downgraded to. They’ll be “forced” (in their opinion) to put Silva in the rotation and watch him serve up gopherball after gopherball.

The Mariners pulled off a major heist here. Yes, Bradley had to go. But we’re still talking a middle of the order hitter who was jettisoned for someone who has no business being on a major league team. At this point, all Cubs fans can hope for is that Silva gets off to such an awful start that the Cubs pull the plug entirely and release him.

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  1. DK said...

    No doubt this is a good trade for Seattle, as the Mariners swap the contract of a completely unproductive pitcher for a similarly priced, potentially productive outfielder/DH.  But why do you assume that Bradley will “have no trouble exceeding” his career slash stats in a hitter-unfriendly park in his age 32 season?  Maybe make his career numbers your baseline, but you can’t say he is expected to exceed them.

    As far as being THE middle of the order anchor for Seattle, I think that’s expecting a little much.  With his OBP skills and power potential (although his career high in HR is 22), Bradley could be a decent 3-hitter behind Ichiro and Figgins in a lineup that doesn’t need to score a ton of runs two out of every five days to win games.  But a big bat at first base would be a huge improvement.

    Regardless, the Cubs needed to ditch their problem child, and the cash going their way in this deal was better than what was available from other interested teams (Tampa Bay, Texas, etc.).

  2. Scott said...

    This writer hasn’t spent much time watching Mr. Bradley play last year.  He is SLOW in the OF, bordering on a liability.  He lost all power from the left side of the plate, and the only thing he brought to the table was patience, as evidenced by his OBP.

    It’s laughable to think a mediocre guy like Bradley is the piece to put the Mariners over the top.  Last I looked, the Mariners were looking for run-producers/power-hitters, which Mr. Bradley clearly isn’t, and hasn’t been minus a short park-inflated stint in Texas.

  3. Sean said...

    Scott sounds like a bitter Cubs fan.

    Bradley had one of the best offensive years in baseball in 2008, and was just as good the year before.  The chances that he completely lost that ability a year later are extremely low.  Even while he struggled in 2009, he was easily an above-average hitter.  What you’re getting with Bradley is a guy who is a guaranteed offensive plus, and has an upside of one of the better hitters in the game.

    And the Mariners got him for a player that, at best, would have been an extremely expensive long reliever.  It would have surprised no one if the M’s released him.

    Mediocre, indeed.

  4. Keith said...

    “In a season where he struggled to adapt to a new team and battle injuries, he batted .257/.378/.397 for a .775 OPS.”

    Well then, it’s a good thing that he won’t have to adapt to a new team this year and that injuries haven’t been the norm for his entire career.

    “[I]s anyone writing off a .277/.371/.450 line? Those are his career slash stats, which Bradley should have no trouble exceeding in 2010.”

    Right, because 32-year-olds in extreme pitcher’s parks tend to have career years.  Even if he does match his career rate stats, he will almost certainly match his career average of fewer than 100 games played due to injury/suspension/petulance.

  5. Scott said...

    Not a bitter Cubs fan at all slick.  Take out his extreme outlier of a year in Texas, due to ballpark and extremely good luck with BABIP, and you’re left with a guy who isn’t anything special.

    He was a liability in the field last year, which isn’t a subjective take on my part (UZR) and was worth 1 win above replacement.

    For what they got him for, why not?  But this whole overreaching argument that this puts Seattle over the top is garbage.

  6. Gary said...

    I don’t think anyone in Seattle (myself included) thinks that Milton Bradley is going to replicate his season in Texas.  However I think there is a very high probability barring injury that he exceeds his 2009 season, and puts up a 2-3 WAR season.  A 2-3 WAR season is consistent with his career numbers.

    Considering that Carlos Silva was going to provide negative value for the M’s, this is a net improvement of 2-3 wins.  Pulling those wins essentially out of no where is what’s so exciting.

    Also Seattle has a history of mellowing out crazy players, like Jose Guillen and Carl Everett.

  7. Leo Walter said...

    It looks to me like both teams need their heads examined ! Silva has had one good year in his career,and has done nothing around it to even merit a job in MLB.He is a walking talking example of the mediocrity passing for talent in this era.Bradley has been nothing but a PIA since he was in the Eastern League.You can cite all the positive stats you want to,but,if he plays more than 110 games,it will take a major epiphany on his behalf.

  8. Chuck P said...

    There is a reason the Mr. Bradley has played for
    so many teams in such a short time. The National,
    and Chicago local media kept writning that Henry should not sign him in 2009.Cub fans and the Chicago media wanted Ibanez or Abreu instead, but Henry though Milton would change personalities and be productive. Mariners think Griffey and Figgins will help Milton, The Cubs tried with Lee and others including Billy Williams, but it didn’t work. Believe Me the Media will hound Milton more then ever now,and he’ll go crazy again.Perhaps Silva’s is healtier, and will be with 2 other Cubs from Venezuala, Zambrano and Guzman and may end up pitching better, if not- Thanks Baseball Folks !
    As a Cub Fan, I think the Mariners other then Bradley are a very good team, hope Milton doesn’t pull them down.

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