INDIANAPOLIS - Now it's come to this.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has done everything now but go on late-night TV and put a sign up that says, "Come on down, we'll listen to all offers for Milton Bradley."
One day after the Cubs were involved in some false buzz (perhaps of their own making) about a Bradley deal being "imminent," things were quieter on the North Side front Wednesday at the winter meetings.
Desperation on Hendry's part? Perhaps, given that he refused to shoot down one rumor that seems absurd on its face.
There was buzz Wednesday that the Cubs could send Bradley to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman-first baseman Mike Lowell, whom Hendry tried to acquire in 2003.
Baseball people around the winter meetings hotel were shaking their heads in disbelief over that rumor. The Cubs would not publicly shoot it down or acknowledge it, perhaps in an effort to create the illusion of a marketplace that for the most part does not exist. Later in the day, a rumor linking the Rangers to Lowell popped up.
Right now, the Tampa Bay Rays are still the most logical landing place for Bradley. They're also in the catbird seat, with no obligation to help the Cubs with salary relief on a contract that has two years and $21 million left.
Hendry tried to put on his bravest face Wednesday, one day before the winter meetings end.
"I didn't look at it today, to be honest with you," he said of the frantic coverage. "It is what it is. That's the world we live in. I think the last couple years, we always read a lot of rumors that were never even discussed. I'm sure this is the case, too. It's a slow-moving winter meetings so far, and everybody has a job to do, and I think even more so with speculation. People just run rampant with it, and that's just the world we live in.
"We came here prepared to look into two or three options to help our club."
Those options also include a veteran right-handed reliever, a center fielder and a bench outfielder.
However, the first order of business is to move Bradley and not absorb a huge financial hit. That may or may not be possible to do.
The Rays, Rangers and Mets have been the three teams most talked about. Hendry would like to make people believe that circle has expanded.
"I think I alluded yesterday that since I got here, there were some new inquiries," he said. "You can't define other people's interest level."
Hendry also insisted there is no deadline to get a Bradley deal done or that he has to do that before he does anything else.
"The other two or three things that we've talked about that we could do really don't have anything to do with, 'You have to do this before you do that,'" he said. "In a perfect world, you'd like to add a center fielder. You'd like to move (Kosuke Fukudome to right field from center). We'd like to add a little presence in the bullpen and keep working, a little bench help.
"I think there will be a lot of people available three or four weeks from now, too, in the free-agent market. The thing that we came here a little different from normal is there wasn't as much volume to look into. We've had winter meetings where we needed more than two or three pieces no matter who we wanted to trade or not trade."