Is Milton Bradley Really The Least Valuable Player In The NL?

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Before firmly planting myself in front of the television for a day of college football, I perused Jayson Stark’s recent column selecting baseball’s awards winners. Among these are his choices for each league’s least valuable player, which prompted this post. In the National League, Stark chose Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley. My immediate reaction was one of disbelief. Certainly, Bradley had a disappointing first season with the Cubs, but look at his performance compared to Stark’s other candidates’:

  • Milton Bradley: .257/.378/.397, 12 HR, 17 doubles, -2.3 UZR
  • Brian Giles: .191/.277/.271, 2 HR, 10 doubles, -7.5 UZR
  • Bill Hall: .202/.260/.341, 8 HR, 20 doubles, 2.2 UZR
  • Austin Kearns: .195/.336/.305, 3 HR, 6 doubles, 1.8 UZR

Clearly, Bradley is the best player in the group. This is particularly true given that he makes the least money of the four. In fact, Bradley isn’t even the worst player on his own team; outfielder Alfonso Soriano put up a .241/.303/.423 line with horrid defense, and he made more than triple Bradley’s salary in 2009. If Stark is trying to find the NL player that hurt his team the most in 2009, Bradley’s selection is obviously wrong. His troubles have been well-documented, but even we decide that his attitude and antics pollute the clubhouse and affect his teammates’ production, he still wasn’t the worst player in the NL this season. That dishonor belongs to Brad Lidge, Garrett Atkins, or the aforementioned Brian Giles. But probably Brad Lidge.

A slight reinterpretation of the word “value”, however, makes this discussion less cut-and-dry. While Bradley was nowhere close to the worst player in the NL, his value totally bottomed out because of more confrontations with coaches, fans, and the media. Bradley is also due $21 million over the next two years. The result is a player with virtually non-existent trade value, making Stark’s claim much more reasonable.

I’m positive Bradley wasn’t the worst player in the NL this season, but I’m not certain that he’s the least tradable player in the league. Bradley might be bailed out (once again) by teammate Alfonso Soriano, who is owed $72 million through 2014. Houston’s Carlos Lee ($55.5 million through 2012) is also in the discussion. Ultimately, it depends on what you make of the term “least valuable.” And unfortunately for Bradley, if it’s understood as “lowest trade value,” he’s in the running.

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