Optioned OF Milton Bradley to Buffalo (AAA)
Purchased the Contracts of UTIF Lou Merloni and RHSP Jeff D'Amico
Assigned RHSP Jason Bere, RHRP Luther Hackman, RHRP Bob Howry, C Dusty Wathan, and UTIF Chris Clapinski to minor-league camp.
Ok, I can't put this off any longer. If you haven't heard by now, Milton Bradley is going to be traded very soon. Why is he being traded? I don't think it's strictly due to the incident last week against the Astros where Bradley, after being confronted by manager Eric Wedge for not running out a bloop fly ball, he reportedly blew up at Wedge, and left the stadium, taking a taxi back to Winter Haven. I think he's being traded because that incident crossed the Indians' threshhold of grief they could take from him. Reading between the lines, the Indians were willing to give Bradley one last chance this season, and until last week, he's been a model ballplayer.
Predictably, most of the local media has taken Bradley's side in the matter. Until some more substantiated accounts of the incident comes out (if it ever does), I can't really take a side here, because frankly, I don't really know what happened. But I can reason this: for the Indians to trade their best player, their cleanup hitter, four days before Opening Day when fan sentiment is (fairly or unfairly) against them, they must have a darn good reason why. They better. Unfortunately, we may never heard their reasoning in the matter, and it's a matter of time until the Milton Bradley tell-all interview comes out. Just like Robbie Alomar. Just like Albert Belle. No matter who they get in a trade, the Indians will come out of this looking bad to the general baseball fan. And that's unfair.
Now, escaping the odious arena of public perception, let's get into what they could get for Bradley.
Milton Bradley, had he stayed in the lineup for another two weeks last year, could have been in the top 10 in batting average and on-base percentage, and could have been a leader in OPS as well. And he's a center fielder. And he can steal bases. And he's only 25. And he's cheap. So even with his warts, he theoretically has great trade value. Of the teams reportedly in the running for Bradley, Los Angeles appears the best fit. Paul DePodesta, the Dodgers' GM, needs offense in the worst way, worked with Shapiro when they both were in the Indians' front office, the Dodgers have one of the best farm systems in the game, and DePodesta is a huge supporter of the tenets of sabermetrics.
I don't think LA is going to give up Edwin Jackson, possibly the best pitching prospect in the game, for Bradley. But the Dodgers have a couple other blue-chippers in their system:
OF Franklin Gutierrez - essentially a younger version of Venzualen native Alex Escobar. Although the Indians don't lack for outfield prospects, Gutierrez is a right-handed power, something the Indians don't really have aside from Alex Escobar and Ryan Ludwick. Ranked #31 on Baseball America's 2004 Top 100 Prospects List. Of yeah, he's a natural center fielder.
A+ Age 20 425 AB, .282/.345/.513, 28 2B, 20 HR
AA Age 20 67 AB, .313/.387/.597, 3 2B, 4 HR
1B James Loney - If the Indians hadn't drafted Michael Aubrey last year, this is a guy they'd be really after in trade talks. As of right now, Loney has a slight edge over Aubrey because he's been in the minors for a full season, but I think Aubrey will overtake him this year as a prospect. Still, he's someone the Indians could trade off to another organization for a player that more fits their needs. Ranked #42 on Baseball America's 2004 Top 100 Prospect List.
A+ Age 19 468 AB, .276/.337/.400, 31 2B, 7 HR
A couple other teams in the running, and some of their top prospects:
Oakland - Joe Blanton
Pittsbugh - RHP John VanBenschoten, LHP Sean Burnett, RHP Bryan Bullington