Now that you've all had a day to express disgust, outrage, "FIREHENDRYNOW", etc. over the trade of Milton Bradley to the Mariners for Carlos Silva, let's examine how this really will affect the 2010 Cubs on the field.
We don't have to rehash the reasons that Bradley had to be moved, but it was clear after he was sent home in September that he would be, no matter what. And when that happened, it was also clear that what the Cubs would get back wasn't going to be much -- likely someone else's bad contract. And that is precisely what we got.
All of you here know that I was against the signing from the beginning -- but I'm not going to say "told you so" here, because even I never imagined that Milton would melt down in the way he would. Let's just say he was never a good fit for the high-profile team that is the Chicago Cubs, and Jim Hendry should have known that. Hendry took responsibility for the entire debacle, and you can bet that Tom Ricketts will have him on a pretty short leash for the rest of this offseason and 2010. If the Cubs don't return to the playoffs in 2010, I'd expect Hendry to be fired, and that firing would be justified. Until then, I do think Hendry deserves a chance to clean up the mess that he made.
So what, really, do we now have here? There has been some dispute over exactly how much financial relief the Cubs got in this deal, but according to this cubs.com article, it's $6 million. This article has the same number. So until I hear different, that's the assumption I'm going on for this post.
Let's not pretend this deal is something it isn't. In December 2009, in a vacuum, there is no way any team deals for or signs Carlos Silva, based on his performance the last two years. He's been horrific. And that might be an insult to horrific players. I'll cut Silva some slack for 2009, as he was hurt most of the year. Could be, that contributed to his poor performance in 2008 also; maybe he was hurt then and didn't tell anyone.
Silva has had, since 2004 when he became a rotation starter for the Twins, at least three seasons where his performance would have made him a capable fifth starter for most teams. In 2005, in 27 starts, he put up an ERA+ of 126 and a 1.17 WHIP. In 2007, the year that got him the four-year deal from the Mariners in free agency, he had a 102 ERA+ and 1.31 WHIP; those numbers, along with a 4.19 ERA, aren't too different from what the Cubs got from Jason Marquis in 2007 and 2008.
Can Silva do this again? The answer is, we simply do not know until we see him pitch. The Cubs claim they have good reports on him from Venezuela:
The Cubs have had scouts watching Silva in Venezuela. He has appeared in four games, striking out two and walking three over nine innings. The club will send its strength and conditioning staff down there to get Silva on a program. The right-hander did report to camp this year 30 pounds lighter.
"We'll do everything we can to get him as close to back where he was a few years ago," Hendry said.
There's no doubt that he needs to lose weight -- just look at the photo at the top of this post, which was taken April 14, 2009. Get the guy in shape, bring him to camp, and see what he can do. There were some here who thought the Cubs should just release Milton Bradley and eat the $21 million on his deal. If Silva really can't pitch any more, he could be released -- but the Cubs would only eat $15 million. Even trading for Pat Burrell would have made the Cubs eat $13 million (because the Rays weren't likely going to take any of Bradley's 2011 salary), and Burrell would have been a very expensive pinch-hitter.
At his best, Silva was a decent ground-ball pitcher who didn't walk anyone. There have been pitchers like him who have come from the AL to the NL and had success -- Bronson Arroyo, for one, or even Glendon Rusch, who had one decent year for the Cubs (2004) as a long reliever/spot starter. There were some links passed around here yesterday -- helpfully combined by Harry Pavlidis -- that indicate that Silva is a very intense player who has on occasion called out his teammates in public for not performing. Clearly, this isn't a good thing, and the only thing I can hope for is that the Cubs clear the air on this right away.
Again, this is obviously not a player you would have chosen to add to your team in a perfect world. The Milton Bradley situation was about as far from "perfect world" as you could get. The $6 million in salary relief, we hope, will allow Jim Hendry to add some help in CF (hey, how about a Ryan Church/Reed Johnson platoon?), or another starting pitcher (paging Joel Pineiro!), or a reliever like Matt Capps.
About Bradley, this portion of Paul Sullivan's article sums him up:
Bradley referred to himself as a "quiet" guy, and said people who criticize him or athletes in general are trying to make names for themselves.
"Pretty much for me, anybody deep down on the inside, looking out or looking in, you understand how PR works and media works, and how people are promoted, and how you have a bad guy and you can have a good guy," he said. "And that's just the way it is. And so I'm portrayed as however I am. It just adds to the mystique, I guess."
"It's unfortunate," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said in September after Bradley was suspended. "At the end of the day, he was provided a great opportunity to come over here and be a part of a really great organization with a lot of really good guys, and it just didn't seem to make him happy, anything."
Somehow, I doubt he'll be happy in Seattle, either, but for now, I'm going to put the pitchforks down and reserve judgment till I see what else Hendry does this offseason. Let's the rest of us try to do that, too. Finally, don't forget to vote in the poll I posted on the right sidebar, if you haven't already, about this deal.