Milton Bradley's stay with the Chicago Cubs ended after one tumultuous season, but general manager Jim Hendry said it could have been a lot different if the mercurial right fielder had gotten off to a good start.
"Offensively, he was the right guy. It wasn't like we didn't do our homework," Hendry said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "If he'd have hit like he normally did the first couple of months probably a lot of the issues wouldn't have come out. He was probably our best player in spring training.
"I remember having some chats with Derrek Lee and Aramis [Ramirez] during camp, and they were thrilled to have him. He just got out of the gate so poorly and just didn't handle that lack of success well. He had always been a good hitter and really good the couple years before we got him."
Bradley was coming off the best season of his 10-year career after batting .321 with 22 home runs and 77 runs batted in for the Texas Rangers in 2008. He signed a three-year, $30 million contract before the 2009 season, giving the Cubs' lineup a left-handed bat. His volatile temper was even thought to be a good thing, bringing some energy to the Cubs clubhouse.
But Bradley got off to a rough start, batting .118 in April. The Cubs suspended him for the rest of the season in September for his conduct. He finished his only season as a Cub batting .257 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs.
The Cubs traded him to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Carlos Silva and cash in December. They have added several players with reputations as good clubhouse guys such as outfielders Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady, Silva and Kevin Millar, but Hendry said that is the norm while Bradley was the exception.
"Until Milton we had always had [good character players] so it wasn't like a U-turn in philosophy," Hendry said. "We've had a great bunch of guys here for a long time, and we still do. Obviously, I made the mistake of trying to fit in the perfect type of offensive player. Obviously when that didn't work the other issues came out. It was fortunate we put it behind us but [signing good character guys] wasn't a conscious effort."