Daily Herald
Moving Bradley won't be as difficult as moving Sosa
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 10/5/2009 6:02 PM | Updated: 10/5/2009 11:11 PM

Observations on the Cubs the day after it all ended:

Don't expect the Cubs to have their entire winter held hostage by Milton Bradley, as they did with Sammy Sosa in 2004-05.

The situations are different. Sosa was an aging player with a prohibitive contract, and there was little market for an aging, one-dimensional slugger whose best days were clearly behind him.

Bradley is younger, and despite his troubles with the Cubs, he still put up an on-base percentage of .378 while managing to stay relatively healthy all year, which was the biggest concern about him coming into the 2009 season.

The Cubs have entertained feelers for Bradley, and if a market of other teams develops for his services, they might not have to take as big a financial hit as you might think.

General manager Jim Hendry moved Todd Hundley, a far less marketable player than Bradley, in early December of 2002.

That said, I'd put the chances of Bradley coming back to the Cubs at less than 1 percent at this point after they sent him home for the final two weeks of the season.

Sandberg not coming: Despite speculation to the contrary, Ryne Sandberg will not be a candidate for the Cubs' hitting-coach job for next season. Sandberg will manage in the minor leagues next season.

The Cubs will interview Dave Keller, their minor-league hitting coordinator, as well as outside candidates. The Cubs have no one in mind from the outside yet.

Better bats: Although manager Lou Piniella has pined for "an RBI bat" to replace Bradley, the front office is looking at things from multiple angles.

First, Hendry said Monday he believes that players who had poor years this season, most notably Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano, can come back and produce next year.

"We need to get better offensively, obviously," Hendry said. "We need our own good guys to play better. There's no reason why they shouldn't. It's not like a guy's hit the end of the line, and he's too old to perform.

"Derrek (first baseman Lee) is still the oldest guy on the team, and he's performing at a magnificent level. If we've got five or six guys that were bad, three or four of them have to play better. That will take care of a lot of problems."

Of course, "RBI guys" become "RBI guys" largely because players in front of them are getting on base, and because they are good hitters, not because they have some innate ability to be "RBI guys."

With that in mind, the Cubs also could be looking to upgrade at the top of the lineup.

"I would say you just do the best you can (with what's) available," Hendry said. "If you could add a couple players, you'd love to. But some of those components don't grow on trees."

In other words, it'll be very difficult to land a player the caliber of Chone Figgins, who may re-sign with the Angels anyway. Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot did creditable jobs at the top of the order this year, despite Theriot's on-base percentage falling to .331 after the all-star break and his batting average falling to .266 in that period.

Grabow top target: Of the Cubs' main free agents, lefty reliever John Grabow is their No. 1 target to re-sign. If they're able to keep Grabow, it's unlikely Hendry will spend a whole lot more money on the bullpen, where youngsters such as Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg will be given good chances to make the team out of spring training.

Free-agent starter Rich Harden will have to look elsewhere if he's looking for a multiyear deal. The Cubs got 26 starts out of Harden, who has had a history of shoulder problems. It has not been decided whether the Cubs will offer Harden arbitration.

Reliever Kevin Gregg does not fit into the Cubs' plans, and the Cubs will look at cost when determining whether they want outfielder Reed Johnson to return, given Johnson's injury history and the presence of a fourth-outfielder type such as Sam Fuld on the roster.

Arbitration watch: The Cubs have a slew of arbitration-eligible players who don't qualify for free agency. The most interesting two to watch are Ryan Theriot and closer Carlos Marmol.

Reliever Aaron Heilman, who had a so-so year, is an arbitration eligible player with one year to go until he's a free agent. The Cubs could opt to not tender Heilman a contract and hope to bring him back at a better price.

Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Jeff Baker, Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Fontenot and Neal Cotts also are potential arbitration cases.

Cotts, who had elbow surgery this year, is a candidate not to be tendered a contract.

With all the attention on the poor years by Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano, Fontenot flew under the radar with a batting average of .236, an on-base percentage of .301 and a slugging percentage of .377.