Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Will Bradley Be Worth the Trouble?

by Glenn Dickey
Dec 14, 2005

THE A’S TRADE for Milton Bradley was a shocker, and the combustible Bradley brings a potential for trouble, but it also shows that A’s general manager Billy Beane is putting together a team which could contend seriously for the World Championship.

Meanwhile the Giants. . . well, they’re still playing the Barry Game.Bradley’s temper problems are well documented, and that’s the reason I thought Beane would not be interested. The A’s have had a remarkably calm clubhouse, rarely having a player who was uncooperative with the media, which is not the norm in major league baseball or, of course, even in Bay Area baseball.

How will Bradley fit in? Eric Chavez, who remembers Bradley from high school days, thinks he’ll be fine. There is a precedent: Jose Guillen, who has had trouble wherever he’s gone but was fine when he played with the A’s in 2003, even playing with a broken bone in his wrist in the playoffs.

As a player, there’s no question Bradley is a good fit, a talented player and the strong hitter the A’s need in the middle of the order. Tentatively, he’s scheduled to play right field, with Nick Swisher moving to first and Dan Johnson to designated hitter, but he can also spell Mark Kotsay in center field when Kotsay’s back gives him problems, as it inevitably will.

Because Bradley is a switch-hitter, he gives manager Ken Macha more flexibility with his batting order. Macha could have as many as six right-handed hitters in the lineup, because Swisher and Bobby Kielty are also switch-hitters. In fact, Kielty should be told to just hit right-handed because he’s just a swinger, not a hitter, from the left side.

Bradley will also take the pressure off Chavez, who had a subpar year last season, partially because he was battling a shoulder injury and partially because he felt the pressure of being the top power hitter in the lineup.

Macha should be able to rest Chavez more, to protect that shoulder, because the A’s also got another good hitter, infielder Antonio Perez, in the trade. Perez, who can play third, short or second, led the Dodgers in hitting with a .297 average last season.

New Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, the former Giants assistant general manager, was willing to throw Perez into the deal because he wanted to get rid of Bradley, though it seems he knows Bradley only through his reputation. As I’ve said before, I don’t think the Dodgers future will be a bright one with Colletti in charge.

TO GET BRADLEY, Beane gave up Andre Ethier, who was the Texas League Player of the Year last season.

Apparently thinking only of the trades Beane made before last season, when he sent pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder away, a columnist said this morning that this trade was a departure from Beane’s normal practice of trading major league players for prospects.

In fact, though, Beane has often traded minor league prospects for major league players. A partial list of those he’s acquired in trades using minor league players includes Keith Foulkes, Billy Koch, Omar Olivares, Guillen, Erubiel Durazo and Damian Miller. The A’s policy of drafting college players (except for the last draft) was adopted in part because college players develop faster and can be used as trading chips.

Three weeks ago, Beane told me he would consider using Ethier in a trade, though he didn’t want to go on the record with that statement at the time. “I’d never say a minor league player is an untouchable because we’re trying to win now and I think we have a good chance,” Beane said then. Ethier was expendable because he’s a left-handed hitter – and because Beane is higher on 20-year-old Daric Barton and on a do-everything outfielder, Javier Herrera, who is a right-handed hitter.

This is the kind of thing the A’s can do because for years they’ve had a dynamic minor league system with numerous attractive prospects. This trade of a top prospect comes on the heels of a major league season in which they had the Rookie of the Year, Huston Street, and got significant contributions from rookies Swisher, Johnson and Joe Blanton. And, the year before, they had the top rookie with shortstop Bobby Crosby.

The Giants have added two impressive pitchers from their farm system in the past two years, Noah Lowry and Matt Cain, but their record in developing position players in the minors is dismal. So, they’re not only not getting the infusion of talent they need on the major league level but don’t have any hot trading prospects in the farm system.

That limits general manager Brian Sabean. He made a good move in signing Matt Morris to bolster the starting rotation but fans who want him to get a big-time left-handed hitter should face the reality: He has no trading chips. He’s trying to get rid of Edgardo Alfonzo, as he should, but Alfonzo won’t bring anything in a trade but another washed-up veteran with a high contract; Steve Finley has been mentioned. After trading away so many pitching prospects, Sabean doesn’t have anybody who is very attractive to other teams.

ONLY THE fact that the Giants are playing in the NL Worst makes them a possibility for the postseason, but now that Beane has strengthened both his pitching and hitting, without losing a player off his major league roster, the A’s are a candidate to go deep into the postseason.

New owners Lewis Wolff and John Fisher, the money man, have wisely given Beane more flexibility with the payroll because they realize that, to get the new park they need, they have to get the general public excited about their team, not just the current A’s loyalists. Keep your fingers crossed on Bradley, but it appears they may have that kind of team.


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