As Cub fans, we just watched a disappointing season end with the team putting a lot of the blame on Bradley. Seeing Milton carry the albatross of destroying a 97-win team, we wonder why anyone would want him. And yet there are reports saying Jim Hendry is able to negotiate with a solid number of teams. Certainly there are some teams that have made it clear they don't want players with character problems - the Angels and the Indians, for example. And there are teams that Bradley wore out his welcome with and won't go back to. But I think there are reasons that the market for Bradley could be bigger than just teams looking to dump bad contracts of their own. It strikes me, for example, that Bradley's situation is awfully reminiscent of the Angels's situation with Jose Guillen in 2004. Guillen had been suspended for the last 8 days of the season after a dugout tantrum that was the last straw. Now, Guillen only cost 3.5 M and for only one year. But he netted Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis.
A lot has been made of Bradley never sticking with a team for more than two years. It's been asked what team would want to take Bradley for two full years now. But I don't think that's how a buying team might look at it. Think of it this way - Bradley's trade value is probably going to be higher at the end of 2010 than it is now. How could his trade value be lower? Perhaps if he was injured for the entire season, that could do it. And that's a possibility. But under almost every other scenario, Bradley will be worth more going into 2011, when there's only one year left on his contract, when he'll almost certainly be coming off a better season of offense, and when, probably, part of his salary is already being paid by Jim Hendry.
So, say you're the Giants. You trade Aaron Rowand for Milton Bradley straight up, getting out from Rowand's contract, you get some much needed OBP for your lineup, and then if you don't want another season of Bradley, you can pay part of Bradley's contract and get the equivelant of Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis in return. In other words, trading for Milton Bradley could easily be seen as a great buy low, wait a year, sell higher opportunity.
Let's consider a different kind of trade, too. If Jim Hendry paid 6 M of Bradley's 2010 salary and 6 M of Bradley's 2011 salary, that would leave 3 M this year and 6 M next year. Would it make sense to the Marlins to trade Jeremy Hermida for that, fully intending to do things the Marlin way and trade Bradley in 2011? Bradley and Hermida have the same health uncertainty, but Bradley's a better bet for better production. And what if the baseball market picked up again a year from now? Bradley at 6 M for 1 year in a recovering economy would be a steal.
Or what about the Blue Jays? They aren't likely to contend unless they get massive years out of cheap acquisitions. They can afford to pay more than the Marlins would pay. If Milton only cost you 5 M in 2010 and 8 in 2001, what would you pay for a perfect risk, someone who you can trade for more than you paid in 2011 even if he doesn't give you the boost you need over the other AL East behemoths in 2010. What injury-risky pitcher would you offer? Would it even make sense to trade Scott Downs for Bradley?
It could be that the only way we trade Milton Bradley is by paying his whole contract and getting nothing much back. It could be that we have to trade him for a bad contract that is marginally helpful. But trying to look at it from other teams' perspectives - there's reason to buy a guy who is a lock for solid OBP and could end up again with the best OPS in your league. What does Jason Bay offer over Milton Bradley when you have to pay Bay twice as much for twice as many years? There's even more reason to buy him when you consider that you will almost certainly be able to trade him for more in a year then you have to pay to get him now.
Other teams shouldn't think of Milton Bradley as a house they will buy to live in, but a house they buy to fix up the value and flip when the market is better. Not everyone will see it that way, but of the 30 teams out there, someone will.