What To Do With Milton Bradley

Dave · July 23, 2010 at 10:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

When the M’s acquired Milton Bradley, the thought was that they were getting a guy who could hit, and they would have to deal with the personality issues that would inevitably arise. And he did have some early in the year. However, since going through his two week leave of absence, there hasn’t been a single incident with Bradley acting out, either on the field or off of it, as he’s been a model citizen for the last two months – even as the team loses games hand over first and the guy he respected most on the team left during mid-season. Since mid-May, Milton Bradley really has been on his best behavior.

He also hasn’t hit at all.

Since returning from counseling, Bradley is hitting .201/.285/.335, a bad line for a middle infielder, much less a DH. It’s not like he was tearing the cover off the ball at the beginning of the year, but he was at least drawing his normal amount of walks and showing some power. He’s walking less than ever before, striking out more often, and he doesn’t have an extra base hit since July 1st. For Bradley, this is the mother of all slumps.

So now, the Mariners have almost exactly the opposite of the guy they thought they were getting. They have a low-maintenance teammate who isn’t performing instead of a high-strung malcontent who causes trouble for opponents on the field and his managers off of it. And, with 2010 down the drain and 2011 looking like a long shot for contention, the question of what to do with Milton Bradley becomes one the team has to answer.

He’s under contract for 2011, so they can bring him back next year if they’d like to. They won’t be able to move him, so their only real alternative would be to cut him and eat all of the money he’s still owed. Given his track record, it’s hard to imagine that he’s actually done as a major league hitter, so it makes some sense to keep him around and hope for a rebound, given that they won’t get any of their money back by releasing him. And yet, he still comes with a decent amount of baggage. Even though he’s been well behaved since May, there’s always the chance that he blows up again. Teams are willing to take that risk when he’s hitting. When he’s not, though, what’s the point?

Factoring in his 2010 performance and combining it with his prior history, ZIPS projects Bradley to be roughly a league average hitter going forward. That’s a lot better than he’s been, but still nothing to write home about. It’s essentially the baseline for a DH. If a guy who doesn’t play the field that often can’t hit better than league average, he won’t be in the majors for very long. Bradley can play an okay-ish left field, so he’s more valuable than some of these DH-only types, but you’re still not going to want him to play left all that much, considering the presence of Michael Saunders.

At DH, the team could probably get similar expected production from a younger guy making the league minimum. They could certainly find a guy who could be expected to hit about league average who wouldn’t come with Bradley’s history of off field problems. But, considering that this is probably the best behaved he’s ever been, it seems a bit unfair to cut him for past transgressions now, when it appears that he’s made a legitimate effort to keep himself out of trouble.

I honestly don’t know what the team should do with Milton Bradley. I can see arguments for cutting him loose and giving his playing time to someone who might have a future with this organization, and I can see arguments for keeping him around and hoping he finds some of the thump that he had a couple of years ago. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one the Mariners will have to make this winter.


41 Responses to “What To Do With Milton Bradley”

  1. maqman on July 23rd, 2010 10:45 am

    Unless somebody offers anything of value for him it makes sense to see how he looks during spring training next year, who knows he may figure it out. If not the the decision rests on the alternatives, roster spot requirements, etc. It’s a toughie.

  2. msfanmike on July 23rd, 2010 11:03 am

    It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one the Mariners will have to make this winter.

    If the money he is owed is the only thing that makes this a difficult decision for the front office, then it is not a difficult decision to be made.

    In an attempt to avoid amateur psychology mumbo jumbo reasons as to why the Mariners need to cut bait, I will come up with 3 semi/mostly logical reasons:

    1. An un-productive Bradley serves no purpose on a rebuilding team with young players who need or have yet to get the chance (Mike Wilson?) for playing time. What is Bradley going to do to help this team … be a role model for the younger players?

    2. His swing mechanics are hosed. He can no longer handle the inside fastball. He jams himself … breaks a lot of bats, pops up incessantly. He cheats on the inside fastball and can no longer reach or recognize the outside breaking pitch. He does still have good bat speed, but good bat speed accompanied by no recognition/guessing = no production.

    3. It’s a mental game predicated on failure. Sitting, waiting and anticipating the next opportunity to perform … which most of the time (70% for the really good players) results in failure. His meltdown in May (where he began to visibly shake in the dugout after “failing) led to his time on the restricted list.

    If he had been hitting .300 would he have had a meltdown? I am not Dr. Phil and I do not know the answer to this question, but I certainly have an opinion.

    Do you really need a guy like this on a young team, and to rely on “hope” as the basis that he will turn things around. Track record is fine, but not trending upward. It’s trending downward … with a bullet.

    If Bradley were hitting 7th on a really good team, with no pressure to perform … he might have a fighting chance to be somewhat productive IMO.

    In his defense, he probably helped the team win more games this year (1) than Carlos Silva would have. The M’s were done with Silva. I was in favor of the Bradley acquisition. I have watched him perform. I am now in favor of him moving on.

  3. amnizu on July 23rd, 2010 11:04 am

    It’s pretty ironic how this season has seemed to give us the exact opposite of what we expected going in. Other than Lee, Felix and Ichiro it has been a complete mess. That said, I think the M’s need to at least give Bradley a shot at the DH role next season to see if he can rebound and make himself into an asset that can be dealt @ the trading deadline. That probably involves somewhere around a 750+ OPS and no ‘Milton Meltdowns’. Not unreasonable IMHO given his past performance and his calm nature since coming off the restricted list.

  4. allenwu on July 23rd, 2010 11:17 am

    Just let him fight for a job in spring training. If some young guy beats him, then it’s the reasonable decision to release him.

  5. nickwest1976 on July 23rd, 2010 11:17 am

    Doesn’t the decision to keep or cut Bradley also very much hinge on Branyan?

    If the M’s don’t trade Branyan and pick up his option, then Branyan is your DH next year for about 5 mil because clearly Smoak is your everyday 1B and Branyan can’t play LF (Saunders is there presumably).

    So if Branyan is back, then Milton is pretty much a bench player and not sure he will deal with that well.

    If the M’s trade Branyan before the deadline then DH is again open for next year and I would say to at least see what he looks like in spring training next year. This year is toast so cutting him now doesn’t make a ton of sense to me but if he doesn’t come in to spring training next year looking solid, you could cut bait then.

  6. Dave on July 23rd, 2010 11:28 am

    The M’s aren’t picking up Branyan’s option. He got $2 million as a free agent last winter coming off a better season. He’s not worth $5 million, and no one will give him that much. The M’s didn’t trade for him for 2011.

  7. Liam on July 23rd, 2010 11:30 am

    Edit: (What Dave said)

  8. wsm on July 23rd, 2010 11:31 am

    At DH, the team could probably get similar expected production from a younger guy making the league minimum.

    This sounds good in theory, but it’s really hard to come up with more than a handful of names of hitters that break in at Safeco and post anything close to league average stats. Young, cheap guys that are likely to produce decent numbers next year don’t currently exist in our system and won’t be easily acquired.

    There will be a cost associated with upgrading from Bradley next year. It might be Branyan’s $5 million, it might be some other free agent, or it might be some other club’s minor leaguer. Any decision on Bradley is going to be based largely on how much Jack is willing to cough up to upgrade the position.

  9. robbbbbb on July 23rd, 2010 11:32 am

    Milton Bradley is the inverse of the Incredible Hulk. Make him angry. You like him when he’s angry.

    That said, the M’s are pretty well stuck with Bradley next year. If they find someone else to DH (Branyan?), then Bradley might well make an okay fourth outfielder. He’s a not-bad bat off the bench and he can play LF and RF. As the 13th or 14th guy on the roster, you could do worse. It depends on how next year’s team shakes out, but as a pinch-hitter and guy to relieve Ichiro and Saunders regularly he might work out.

    One more thing: He hits lefties better than righties. That might make a DH platoon (Branyan/Bradley) work out very well indeed.

  10. lesch2k on July 23rd, 2010 11:41 am

    Is there any chance the M’s will be able to trade Branyan or Kotchman? What do you think of Smoak at DH a few times a week, while Kotchman plays the field?

    Branyan seems to be tradeable (i hope); i’d want the M’s to trade Branyan, DFA 6-4-3 (or keep him on the DL) and maybe give a few AB’s to young guys.

  11. allenwu on July 23rd, 2010 11:43 am

    I don’t think we should count on Branyan too much. His back only lasts like half a season at most.

  12. Sports on a Schtick on July 23rd, 2010 11:44 am

    I’d keep Bradley into spring training. When he’s right we know he can hit. How many M’s can we say that for? 3, 4 guys on the roster? If (and it’s quite an if) Bradley can produce close to what’s expected of him then that’s a step in the right direction for this offense.

  13. Dave on July 23rd, 2010 11:44 am

    The M’s aren’t going to trade Branyan. They brought him in to keep the team for turning into a total joke. He has little little to no trade value anyway (look at what we gave up for him), and they’d rather just keep him and let him hit some HRs and try to help the team win the rest of the year.

    I’d expect Kotchman will be given away at some point in the next week.

  14. mikethomas22 on July 23rd, 2010 11:47 am

    [read the comment guidelines]

  15. spankystout on July 23rd, 2010 11:50 am

    This is going to be a very hard decision for the Mariners. Bradley is owed 13.3M, and the Cubs 5.5M next season (for Silva). So cutting Bradley would be an 18.8M vacated roster spot. Once again, if payroll remains around 91M, that means Ichiro and Bradley are eating 36.5M. Which is almost half the current total. That is quite a payroll hit. If Bradley keeps his good behavior up, I would like to see him comeback next year, but its not up to me.

  16. Chris_From_Bothell on July 23rd, 2010 11:51 am

    He’s a sunk cost, financially, yes? I’d think that plus your points about his production means that by default, he’s a pinch hitter and platoon DH, perhaps spot-starting in left as an injury backup.

    If they find someone statistically better and there’s no other room on the roster for that someone, then he just gets DFA’d, cost or no. I thought being willing to DFA him if he was a problem was an assumption in swapping him for Silva in the first place (i.e. if he works out great, if he doesn’t, cut your losses). That “works out” definition has just shifted from a behavior and offense one, to being a roster and offense one.

    I don’t think he’s clogging the roster like the multi-headed monsters we’ve had around DH and bench before. So he’s sort of a 24th or 25th man.

    Assuming he continues to be well-behaved and accepts reduced playing time, he’s got to be fairly low on the list of issues to solve.

  17. tdillon on July 23rd, 2010 12:21 pm

    Right now, there just isn’t a compelling player for the DH position aside from Bradley. Since 2011 isn’t looking terribly rosy for the team, there just isn’t a huge rush to find someone else. Were there to be a AAAA player in the system, there would be more than ample reason to unload Bradley. I just don’t see a whole lot sink even more costs on a player with decent upside.

  18. abcd on July 23rd, 2010 12:35 pm

    I think this is a case where ZIPS is wrong in the projection for next year. His bat has clearly slowed to the piont that he is no longer a major league caliber player. Cut him, trade him for Ibanez[sarcas], whatever, just get rid of him.

  19. abcd on July 23rd, 2010 12:35 pm

    I think this is a case where ZIPS is wrong in the projection for next year. His bat has clearly slowed to the piont that he is no longer a major league caliber player. Cut him, trade him for Ibanez[sarcasm], whatever, just get rid of him.

  20. Westside guy on July 23rd, 2010 12:36 pm

    Given the circumstances around his acquisition, IMO his salary shouldn’t really be part of this discussion (other than explaining why we can’t expect to move him). It’s not like the M’s had $24 million to spend freely and decided “Hey! We want to invest this in Milton Bradley!”

    I agree that we should consider looking at Bradley as the backup OF / pinch-hitter / occasional DH guy on the bench. I know it amounts to damning with faint praise, but he’s certainly a step up from the Griffey / Sweeney / Tui bench we had early this season. We’d still need the IF bench guy, of course, but we’ve had that hole already for pretty much this entire season.

  21. dekdek on July 23rd, 2010 12:43 pm

    Next spring Bradley can earn either of the DH or LF positions by outstanding performance; or he can be the 4th outfielder/pinch hitter/pinch runner/ocassional DH ….The M’s don’t need his permission to make him the 24th man on the roster…. and if he is truly horrid (eg Byrnes) the Mariners have to let him go. Let’s hope he can make a comeback and be a contributor in 2011 (who cares about 2010).

  22. msfanmike on July 23rd, 2010 12:56 pm

    Ditto on what Dave said about Branyan’s option not being exercised for $5M and to his other two additional entries as well.

    I think the team likes Branyan, they need him (a healthy version) and they know they can get him for a lot less than $5M next year.

    With his affinity for playing in Seattle, the team liking his production at Safeco and the fact that they recently re-acquired him (because they need his power); I can see them negotiating a more reasonable price to keep him around for at least one more season as the DH.

    The team won’t exercise the existing option in his contract for next season (because they won’t need to); however, it doesn’t mean he won’t be back with the team next season. The health of his back for the remainder of this season will likely be the determining factor in that regard.

  23. philosofool on July 23rd, 2010 12:59 pm

    I think the M’s might as well keep him and see what they get. It costs the team at least $400k to find someone else to be DH; that’s the opportunity cost of getting someone else. I don’t exactly see the point of spending that money to get someone who will give the same level of performance. He can also play corner outfield, which means he’s a backup for an injured Ichiro or Saunders, or just there for their day off.

    Furthermore, that $400k could be put toward the salary of something else we need in the off season. As far as I can tell, we have to sign a free agent pitcher and send RRS to the pen next season. That $400k is better added to a pitcher’s salary than used to replace a mediocre player.

    We’ve already said that 2011 isn’t really a serious contending year for the Mariners. Maybe if everything went right, it would be, but it’s hardly the possibility you make plans around.

    Carlos Silva’s contract is the gift that keeps on giving. The team can always release Bradley if he goes crazy again.

  24. abcd on July 23rd, 2010 1:08 pm

    “Carlos Silva’s contract is the gift that keeps on giving. The team can always release Bradley if he goes crazy again.” I think you should rewrite that sentence, esp since the Ms are still paying that salary I don’t see what benefit they are getting out of it at this point.
    I hope you realize that he has been better this year with the Cubs then Bradley has been with the Ms. Replacing one ‘sunk’ cost with another ‘sunk’ cost is not a net gain.

  25. akampfer on July 23rd, 2010 1:24 pm

    As long as he behaves like he’s been doing, might as well keep him around. He could come around. I’d take league average.

  26. jimbob on July 23rd, 2010 2:10 pm

    Now that we’ve traded baseball’s best pitcher to another team in our own division why not simply DFA our loser veterans and play the best AAA team we can field? Could our offense suck any more? Trade Ichiro to the Yankees before he slits his belly.

    One of the reasons that aging ballplayers love Seattle is management’s willingness to continue playing them until their rotting parts can’t support their weight. I hope Bradley’s analysis sessions are helping him “find himself”. What a bunch of losers.

  27. BillyJive on July 23rd, 2010 2:16 pm

    After watching last night’s game, which sadly was one of the more exciting M’s games all year, there are a few players I would like to see take a flying leap from the top of the Space Needle with no parachute.
    Milton is one of those guys.

  28. zeebfan on July 23rd, 2010 2:17 pm

    I have often wondered if Milton Bradley has eye trouble that might interfere with the way he sees pitches. One of his eyes seems to wander a bit when he bats from the right.

  29. G-Man on July 23rd, 2010 2:56 pm

    IF there’s a chance of a rebound, then keep him. If he’s done as a player, then cut him. As for me, I don’t know which is the case.

  30. philosofool on July 23rd, 2010 3:01 pm


    I think you misunderstood my sarcasm about Silva’s contract. My point was that we’re still stuck with an overpaid, low-value player.

  31. et_blankenship on July 23rd, 2010 3:02 pm

    Please keep Milton. He is about the only thing that makes the Mariners interesting at this point . . . no offense to Felix, Ichiro and Jen Mueller.

  32. GripS on July 23rd, 2010 3:05 pm

    With the season being toast I don’t know that we really need to ask this question right now. I say keep playing him and see if he gets his swing back at some point and as already mentioned make him earn his spot out of spring training next year.

    I think he’s just not motivated right now. I don’t blame him. He’s playing on an awful team(worse than the last crappy team he was on last year). However, as a professional you get paid to perform and that’s exactly what you should do regardless of how the season is going(see Felix Hernandez).

    Don’t dump him just yet. If he still sucks throughout the remainder of the season and doesn’t show any signs of improvement next spring then cut him loose.

  33. EthanN on July 23rd, 2010 4:14 pm

    I like Milton, he keeps me on edge.

    I know one day I’m going to sign into ESPN and see the inevitable headline, “Bradley snaps. Kills Wakamatsu. Rob Johnson, Sean White, the Only Players to Intervene.”

  34. pft on July 23rd, 2010 4:27 pm

    The Mariners rolled the dice on Milton Bradley, and no surprise, he came up short, and folks want to keep the DH spot open for him next year in the hope that he changes? It’s up to him to win a spot, but don’t bet the farm on it. Pursue other options.

    This year the DH spot was given to Ken Griffey Jr and Sweeney, despite the fact that neither of them performed that well in 2009. Meanwhile Ryan Garko and Russell Branyan are let go or allowed to walk despite having hit 45 HR between them last year. Branyan may not be worth 5 million on the open market of teams with league average offense and power, but looking at this lineup, he surely is worth it to the M’s. To win low scoring games, you need HR and SLG.

    Also, Seattle always seems to get guys who underperform offensively based on their previous track record. This always gets blamed on SAFECO. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because the lineup is so weak and lacking in power, that pitchers don’t have to work as hard to get through the lineup, and do not worry about making a bad pitch that ends up being a HR. Good hitting teams make players in the lineup look better than they are, and the reverse is true.

    Beltre’s year in 2010 is being credited to being out of SAFECO and going to Fenway, yet he has a 1010 OPS on the road and 849 OPS at Fenway. Maybe he sees better pitches to hit in a deep lineup where pitchers have to work harder to get through the order.

    But it is best write off Bradley as ful time DH until he proves otherwise, and go after a couple of good hitters, even if they have some defensive issues and you have to overpay. Betting on proven losers, and continuing with a run prevention without run production srategy is a recipe for losing.

  35. Typical Idiot Fan on July 23rd, 2010 4:45 pm

    I wonder if Milton will pull a Kenji. He’s had injuries piling up his entire career: some chronic and some new ones. Eventually that takes it’s toll. He was down in performance last year to his norms (even if you do believe him and think that Chicago had something to do with it…) and he’s down again this year. Milton is exactly 2 days older than I am (He’s born 4/15/78, I was born 4/17/78), so I’d hate to admit someone my age is in decline, but with everything he’s been through? I wouldn’t be shocked.

    Remember that scouting report we saw in Spring Training about how he can’t catch up to anything over his hands? Seems to be holding true…

  36. Broadcast James on July 23rd, 2010 5:05 pm

    This post reminded me of “Major League II” when Cerrano converted from voodoo and stopped hitting in the process…

    …and then he finds his “marbles”.

  37. GoldenGutz on July 23rd, 2010 5:05 pm

    He hit well in the Padre series so I say we trade him to SD. He’s not a horrible defender but he isn’t great.

  38. D.A.R.Y.L. on July 23rd, 2010 8:23 pm

    Although Bradley has been awful this year, there is absolutely no reason not to hold on to him and make him your everyday DH next year.

    He’s one of several underperforming players that have dragged our offense down this year. Next year, if he goes into the year with the defined role of DH, it is possible he’ll be substantially better.

    Considering we aren’t going to be able to use the money he is due on someone else, it makes sense to wait it out and hope for the best. If he surprises and hits like he did in Texas a few years ago, he could even have value for the Mariners at the trade deadline.

  39. philosofool on July 24th, 2010 12:46 pm

    The Mariners rolled the dice on Milton Bradley, and no surprise, he came up short, and folks want to keep the DH spot open for him next year in the hope that he changes? It’s up to him to win a spot, but don’t bet the farm on it. Pursue other options.

    There are lots of ways to spend money on the team next year. No one thinks that keeping Milton is ideal, but I think the general idea is that he’s probably better than he’s played so far and the money used to replace him could just as easily be used elsewhere. Replacing Bradley costs a minumum of $400k, and for that we wouldn’t get anyone much better than him. It would take about $1m for a DH that’s more than the bare minumum performance that a DH has to provide.

  40. Adam S on July 24th, 2010 3:28 pm

    As for Bradley, I think we have a couple of months before we really have to make any sort of decision. He could tear it up in August and September and make it easy.

    Seriously question (though not literally), is there something in the water in Seattle? Bradley seems to be the latest in a series of good hitters the Mariners have acquired over the past decade who performed at their 25% PECOTA or worse. Sexson was an aging 1B who fell off a cliff. But Cirillo, Spiezio, Aurilia, Olivo, Beltre, Figgins, and Bradley (and probably others I’m forgetting) seem to have come to the Mariners and dropped their OPS 150 points. Sure there’s a ballpark affect but it’s not 300 points of OPS at home. And it’s not like the Mariners have acquired guys who are washed up and the other 29 teams figured it out. Those who’ve played after leaving the Mariners have seen their numbers jump up. Aurilia who was a total dud and presumed “done”, hit 23 HR and an 860 OPS a couple years later.

    Ibanez is about the only free agent acquisition who didn’t collapse when he played here.

  41. sjudy on July 25th, 2010 9:48 pm

    I think a lot of you need to review the idea of salary and how that affects the role that players have with a team. You don’t just cut a guy and not eat his salary. Even if we cut Milton, we still have to pay the guy the $13.3 Million he’s owed next year and that money just doesn’t magically come from nowhere. With the declining attendance numbers at Safeco and a horrible season, their revenue is down. I realize we’re under corporate ownership but its still a hard pill to swallow. Out of financial reasons alone, expect Milton to be back. I’m not saying he will be but that’s where expectations should lie.
    Now, I don’t think he’s completely done but I think his days of being a feared hitter are over. Its obvious he’s trying to hard and there is a loss of signals between his body and brain in pitch recognition. He can still turn things around a be a productive hitter.
    Look, I realize the man has had some serious transgressions but if he’s proved anything to us, its the fact that he trusts the organization and wants to be here. He will work for it and I expect him to return the favor to us that we showed to him. We didn’t turn our backs on him and are the first team to truly help him with his troubles. He won’t suck this bad again next year, whether its for us or another team.

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