The Chicago sports media have been reporting ad nauseam that the Cubs can't make a free agent signing until they move Milton Bradley. Some say it's the money. Some say it's the uncertainty of the layout of the team. I say hogwash. We all know the Cubs have more money than you can shake Sam Waterston at. And it doesn't make a ton of sense for Jim Hendry to postpone free agent signings for fear of running out of holes on his roster. Right now, no one is offering the Cubs anyone for Milton Bradley, let alone any player worthy of occupying an everyday position.
The Cubs don't lack the funds or the foresight to sign the players they want—Mike Cameron and/or Marlon Byrd, Joel Piñiero, and Alfredo Amezaga are among the candidates—but somehow they seem intent on broadcasting to the world that they lack flexibility.
Ever since "Milton Bradley" and "must trade" became redundancies, Jim Hendry has looked like a trapped coyote without enough fortitude to gnaw himself free from the jaws of Milton Bradley's contract. No GM who sees him in that light will ever want to A) take home a Milton Bradley steel trap, or B) help Hendry salvage any of his $21 million leg. The metaphor's falling apart, so I'll move on.
It's time for a French lesson. I give to you, Jim Hendry, the legend of Carcassonne:
In 760, “Pepin the Short”*, King of the Franks, took most of the south of France back from the Saracens, except for Carcassonne. True to its reputation, it remained an impregnable fortress. After a long siege, the Franks had good reason to think that the inhabitants of Carcassonne would soon starve and surrender. But Dame Carcas, the widow of the Sarrasin lord of the castle, devised a plan to save the city. She had a pig fed with the last sacks of grain the inhabitants could find. When the pig was fat enough, it was thrown over the city’s ramparts. At the sight of such a well-fed fat animal, the astonished assailants concluded that the inhabitants still had enough food in stock to stave off famine and weren’t about to surrender any time soon. And so they gave up and quickly lifted the siege. Dame Carcas rang all the bells of the city all day long to celebrate the victory. Legend has it that Dame “Carcas sonne” (Dame “Carcas rings”) is where the name of the city came from.
If Hendry wants to change the way other teams view his situation, and if keeping Milton Bradley really is impossible, he needs to throw a big fat pig over the wall. Give a free agent way too much money. Make a trade for a guy you can't afford to sign to an extension. Do something no one not named Steinbrenner would be willing to do.
Hendry needs to show the rest of Major League Baseball that he has plenty of options, plenty of money, and no intentions of getting screwed over. A fat free-agent contract (something worth about 2 or 3 John Grabow's) would send a message that the Cubs can afford to keep Milton Bradley and they aren't preoccupied with moving him—even if the exact opposite is true.
Do that, and maybe then a GM who cares more about OPS than congeniality will extend his grubby little paws in the direction of Milton's death grip.
*Paul Sullivan shall heretofore be known on this site as Pepin le Bref.