I can't take credit for this one -- it was first suggested in this comment in the Pat Burrell Fanshot last night -- but I think it's worth investigating, as a deal sending Milton Bradley to Tampa Bay, Pat Burrell to the Rangers, and Kevin Millwood to the Cubs would help all three teams.
The Rays were one of the suitors for Bradley last offseason and a Bradley-for-Burrell deal has apparently been on and off the table between the Cubs and Rays since the middle of the 2009 season. Thus, we know they still have interest in him, and given the fact that Bradley has said he doesn't like to be in the spotlight, Tampa, a low-key baseball environment, might be very good for him.
Here's the problem with Burrell as a Cub, though: he's a DH. Last year, he played only two games in the outfield, starting one (in RF) and playing two innings in LF in the other. He wasn't a very good outfielder when he was with the Phillies; he played 1B, his "best" natural fielding position, in his first full major league season, then moved to the outfield because the Phillies acquired players (Travis Lee and then Jim Thome) who would have been even worse in the outfield than Burrell.
Since the National League doesn't have the DH rule -- yet; I still expect that having the DH in the NL will be a bargaining chip in the next round of player/owner labor negotiations -- Burrell would be useless to the Cubs, even as a backup. You wouldn't want him in the outfield, and he'd be an expensive piece to sit on the bench and pinch-hit twice a week and maybe spell Derrek Lee at 1B once a month.
Ah, but the Texas Rangers do need a designated hitter. About half of the DH duty in Arlington in 2009 was handled by Andruw Jones, who wasn't much better than Burrell last year, and who is a free agent. Burrell's decline with the Rays last year is mystifying -- he was coming off a .875 OPS season in Philadelphia in 2008 where he had 33 HR and 102 walks, which ranked third in the NL. You'd have to think he'd rebound in 2010, playing in the launching pad which is Rangers Ballpark.
The primary reason for making this deal, of course, is the Cubs' desire to be rid of Bradley, and thus you'd have to equalize the contract money between the three teams, or at least come close to doing so. The Cubs know they are not dealing from a position of strength and will probably have to take on extra money, so let's look at what's left on the contracts of each of these players. All numbers are, as usual, from Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Milton Bradley is due $9 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011.
Pat Burrell is due $9.2 million in 2010 ($9 million salary and $200,000 if traded).
Kevin Millwood is due $12 million in 2010 -- and a $15 million signing bonus that's payable over a five-year period from 2011 to 2015, presumably $3 million a year (though that's not made clear at Cot's).
If the deal were made straight-up -- each team taking on the contract of the player they're acquiring -- the Rangers make out like bandits, because they'd be losing a $27 million obligation (Millwood) and taking on a $9.2 million obligation (Burrell). The Cubs would be taking on some extra money in that scenario, $27 million (Millwood) compared to $21 million (Bradley). The total money owed to all three players in all three of these deals is $57.2 million.
We know, from numerous reports, that the Cubs are willing to eat some salary to make Bradley disappear from the roster. So how about something like this:
The Rays pay Bradley the $9 million he's owed this year, and $3 million (one-third) of what Bradley's owed in 2011 -- total of $12 million.
The Cubs pay Millwood the $12 million he is owed this year, two-thirds of what Bradley's owed in 2011 ($9 million) and half ($7.5 million) of Millwood's signing bonus over the five-year period -- total of $28.5 million, but spread out over a longer timeframe.
The Rangers pay Burrell the $9.2 million he's owed this year, and half ($7.5 million) of Millwood's signing bonus over the five-year period -- total of $16.7 million.
That, to me, would make the deal financially workable, and also make baseball sense, for all three teams -- the Rays get a player they have apparently sought for a while at an under-market price; the Cubs pay a few more total dollars, but can spread it out over a longer time period; and the Rangers get a useful player and more than $10 million of financial relief. This would also possibly free up enough 2010 dollars for the Cubs to offer Rich Harden arbitration, if they wanted to; if they didn't, they'd at least have an experienced major league arm in Millwood to replace him.
As we often say here: GETITDON EJIM!