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Hot Stove Heating Up

By Garrett Monaghan

Well, the Winter Meetings start today, and baseball's Hot Stove is already heating up. Milton Bradley was recently voted by general managers to be the player most likely to be dealt in the next week, so most Cubs fans have to something to look forward to already.

The most popular rumors have the Cubs involved in a three-way deal with the Mets and Rays. The Cubs would wind up with Luis Castillo, the Rays get Bradley, and the Mets get Pat Burrell. Apparently the stumbling block here is who picks up which part of which salaries. Bradley has the biggest of the bunch, and the Cubs seem reluctant to eat a substantial portion of it.

This deal does have some positives for the Cubs, with getting rid of Bradley being the first. Castillo has the potential to help the team as well, though he's 34 and signed through 2011. Castillo could give the Cubs a highly effective leadoff man with a good glove; the question becomes do we actually want him for the next two seasons? In addition to the logjam his acquisition would cause in the middle infield, the Cubs seem to be counting on uber-prospect Starlin Castro contributing in the next season or two. With Ryan Theriot at second and Castro at short, the Cubs would seem to be set up the middle for the future.

A deal of Bradley straight up for Burrell has also been suggested, but hopefully this isn't too much of Hendry's radar. Yes, it'd mean we got rid of Bradley, but Burrell is an even worse defender, and it would mean leaving Kosuke Fukudome in center; where he finished close to the bottom in almost every defensive matrix.

Another team that's been mentioned periodically in reference to Bradley is the Padres, and I think there's potential for another three-way deal here. The Red Sox haven't made a secret of their interest in Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and if the Cubs could get them involved in a deal with the Padres, they might be able to get something done. In theory, the Sox would get Gonzalez, the Padres would get Bradley and a couple prospects, and the Cubs would get a prospect or two and get Boston to pick up a chunk of Bradley's salary. The Cubs probably couldn't expect to get much in terms of players, but they might not have to eat as much of Bradley's salary as they would in another deal.

This probably isn't going to happen, but it might be worth a phone call or two on Hendry's part. In a straight up deal with the Padres, the Cubs would probably have to eat a substantial portion of Bradley's salary, and aren't like to get much in return. San Diego's farm system is pretty decent, however, and they've got a number of young power bats the Cubs could ask for.

What ever comes out of the Winter Meetings, the Cubs are sure to be plenty active this week. The last time Hendry signed a major deal at the winter meetings, he wound up negotiating Alfonso Soriano's deal from a hospital bed. If there's anyone more likely to give Hendry a coronary, it's probably Milton Bradley.

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