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.
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.
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.)
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.