The topic of Milton Bradley and his many off-field incidents dominated the conference call concluded moments ago with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
First off, Zduriencik sees Bradley as a middle-of-the-order bat who will see time at both left field and DH. We’ve told you for some time the M’s have looked for a righthanded bat to play in left field — everyone from Mike Cameron, to Jason Bay to Johnny Damon, etc. — and now, they’ve got a switch-hitter as their man at substantially lesser cost than any of those options. Bradley is a better right handed hitter, posting an .806 OPS vs. .764 as a lefty last season and a .993 vs. .863 the past three years (though the majority of his ABs came from the left side. In other words, he’s capable of being an everyday player with good platoon splits.)
But the M’s also inherit the volatility that’s followed Bradley from city to city. This isn’t about the media liking or not liking a guy. Bradley has had it out with teammates, managers, coaches, umpires…you name it. Zduriencik tried to avoid discussing those issues as much as possible, though he did say that bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, who had Bradley in Oakland, and performance coach Steve Hecht, who worked with him in Texas, had input before today’s move.
“Players want to be in very positive environments,” Zduriencik said. “And that’s what we’re trying to create here.”
Zduriencik mentioned the success manager Don Wakamatsu and his staff had with every player on the roster and added that Bradley should be no different.
“He was very supportive of this decision,” Zduriencik said of Wakamatsu. “He thought it was a great fit, the type of guy we’ve been looking for. You can throw out a lot of the available bats out there and there are some good ones. But two years ago, this guy led the American League in on-base-percentage. We know he’s a very competitive guy who wants to win.”
Zduriencik said he also spoke to Bradley this morning and that he’s excited about playing in Seattle.
“What we have right now is a player that has ability,” he said. “Is a player that will produce for us. We looked at everything and said ‘Hey, we’re comfortable that this is a player that will produce for us.”
I’m told the Mariners and Cubs first broached the subject of a Bradley deal back in November. Zduriencik told me today that he and Cubs GM Jim Henry had a discussion on a Silva-Bradley swap last week at the winter meetings, but then tabled any further discussion on it for the time being.
About 48 hours ago, talks revived and grew very serious in a hurry.
Zduriencik said he never spoke to the Cubs, prefering to do his own investigating through internal contacts and what he knew about the player.
“Again, the people that I talked to, and certainly they are people who were internal, had nice things to say about Milton. They thought he was a good teammate. They thought he was a guy that really cared and that he wanted to win. Sometimes, players need space and you just give players space.
“Every single player and every single coach and every single front office guy has things about them that sometimes, they require, again the word I just used — space. In this particular case, what we know is that he is a good person. We know that he’s a very intelligent guy. We know he has a strong desire to win. And he wants to be here.”
As for all of the incidents involving Bradley over the years, including those that caused the Cubs to essentially give him away for Silva and cash, Zduriencik replied: “Every circumstance has its own parameters of why things happen. In this particular situation, we looked at everything and we said ‘Hey, we’re comfortable with acquiring this player. We think that this is a good fit for us on the field and we think that we have the support group that, like a lot of players on our club last year, came here and embraced each other.”