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Bradley heads Cubs' list for lefty help

Bradley heads list for lefty help

LAS VEGAS -- The good news for the Cubs is the free-agent outfielders they've talked to are very interested in playing in Chicago. General manager Jim Hendry just has to figure out who the right guy is.

Hendry spent Wednesday meeting with representatives, and although he wouldn't specify who he contacted, it was believed that he talked to agents for Raul Ibanez and Milton Bradley.

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"I feel a little more clear today on the outfield potentials," Hendry said. "It's not closer, but a matter of some confirmations that two or three different people would make us the top of their choices. That's always nice to hear."

Hendry also talked to at least one club about a possible trade that would allow the Cubs to add a left-handed bat who could play right field or center and give the team a more balanced lineup.

The Cubs have not made a formal offer to anyone and don't expect to finalize any deal before leaving the Bellagio hotel on Thursday.

Bradley, 31, may be the front-runner. He's coming off his best season in which he hit .321, with 22 homers and 77 RBIs. Rangers manager Ron Washington said Cubs personnel had contacted him regarding Bradley, who is believed to be seeking a multi-year deal. Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry worked with Bradley when the two were together in Oakland and is familiar with the outfielder, who led the American League in on-base percentage (.436) this season.

Bradley does have a checkered past, having fought with teammates, managers and had run-ins with fans. One scout told the Chicago Tribune that Bradley would be a good fit because "he'd make that team a lot of fun."

Ibanez, who hit .293 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs with Seattle, was being courted by the Phillies and Mets as well. A high-priced option would be Bobby Abreu, who hit .296 with 20 homers and 100 RBIs last season with the Yankees.

The team wants to break up its overload of right-handed hitters with another left-handed bat and would like to find someone who can play right or center. Manager Lou Piniella has said he could move Kosuke Fukudome to center, and both Bradley and Ibanez are options for the corner. However, neither is a standout defensive player.

Hendry also talked to agent Barry Meister about free agent catcher Paul Bako, who played for the Cubs in 2003-04. The team is looking for a catcher who is willing to accept reduced playing time and be a backup to Geovany Soto.

But finding that outfielder is the top priority.

"There's so many different variables that could happen," Hendry said. "The good news is in the end we feel like we'll have good results for our baseball team before we get to Spring Training. We feel confident we'll be a better team. That being said, whether it's two new guys, three new guys, it's hard to tell. We do feel good about the possibilities."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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