Discussions continue as Bradley remains

Discussions continue as Bradley remains

INDIANAPOLIS -- Asked to describe the first day of the Winter Meetings, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday was a normal day.

"Nothing earth shattering," Hendry said.

Which means Milton Bradley is still on the Cubs.

Hendry and his staff continued discussions with teams interested in the switch-hitting outfielder as well as talked to clubs who may have a veteran right-handed reliever that fits the Cubs' needs.

Seth Levinson, Bradley's agent, declined to comment about his client when approached by Chicago beat writers on Monday. The Cubs have encouraged teams interested in Bradley to talk to Levinson, but no team has done so.

The most workable deal for the Cubs appears to be a one-for-one trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, which would send outfielder Pat Burrell to Chicago. The Cubs, Rays and New York Mets apparently were close to completing a three-team trade which would've sent Luis Castillo to Chicago, Burrell to New York and Bradley to Tampa Bay. But the Mets reportedly nixed that because they want to see if they could land either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.

The Mets were believed to be in discussions with the Cubs regarding Bradley, joining the Rays and Texas Rangers, but New York team officials there denied any interest. The Mets are trying to move Castillo, who is owed $12 million over the next two years. Bradley is owed $21 million over the next two years.

Hendry did not address Bradley specifically during a meeting with the media, saying only that he met with representatives from five or six clubs and a few agents in his suite.

"I don't really discuss players we have who may or may not be traded," Hendry said. "We'll do what's best for the club. We feel confident that when we get to Mesa, Ariz., [for Spring Training] we'll have a better team than we did last year. We have some work to do and some mixing and matching to do, but we feel by the time we'll get there, we'll be a better team."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella also avoided any comments on Bradley during his half-hour manager session at the Indianapolis Marriott.

"Look, that's not my department," Piniella said, deferring questions to Hendry.

Rangers manager Ron Washington, who was with Bradley in Oakland and also in Texas, did talk about the outfielder and gave him the biggest boost.

"I don't have the formula to why Milton did what he did for us," Washington said, "but I had Milton in Oakland and I handled Milton like a man. I called him out when it was time to call him out, and he accepted it.

"Milton is a very smart guy, and he knows when he's done wrong. I just didn't let it fester. And in the process, he enjoyed playing in Texas, he enjoyed playing with the guys who were in Texas. He certainly enjoyed all of his teammates and the atmosphere that we created there.

"There's no one thing I can say that I worked some magic on. I just treated Milton like I treated everyone else, like a man."

Bradley did produce with the Rangers, and finished with a .321 average, 22 home runs and 77 RBIs as well as an American League-leading .436 on-base percentage. He didn't come close to those numbers in his first season in Chicago, batting .257 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs.

If Bradley was playing in a similar environment as he did in Texas, could he be productive again?

"Oh, without a doubt," Washington said. "I don't know if he's not comfortable in Chicago but Milton is a very productive player. Certainly, he was for us in Texas and he was when I had him in Oakland. He still has a lot of productivity in him. I don't know, maybe he had a bad year in Chicago last year."

Bradley isn't the most communicative. Washington said he has tried to call Bradley since the 2009 season ended and left messages. Bradley has not returned his calls.

One of the reasons the Cubs pursued Bradley last season was because they wanted a left-handed hitter to break up the right-handers like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano.

"I don't think it matters any more," Piniella said about whether they have to add a left-handed bat. "Let's keep people healthy on the field and let them produce. Sometimes you get in a situation where the player you specifically want is not there and you start forcing things. Let's get the best player that we possibly can and go from there."

In a perfect world, the Cubs would take a left-handed hitter over a right-handed one.

"At the end of the day, every situation is different, every position is different," Hendry said. "In the end, you just want the best player."

Hendry does have other issues. The Cubs are looking for a veteran right-handed reliever and continued talks with teams regarding a possible center fielder. He described talks as more active, but not necessarily intense.

"We had some options today that we discussed with some teams that we haven't discussed before," Hendry said. "You don't want to predict deals or no deals, but I think we feel comfortable there are ways we can make our ballclub better, as we discussed all winter, mixing and matching, adding someone in the 'pen down the road, add somebody in the outfield.

"It was a good day, and I think what happens is once people get to this time in the calendar, you sense everybody's a little more interested in doing business than they were a month ago. That's the way the game has always gone."

He also had a few chuckles. There was a report that the Cubs were willing to trade either Ryan Theriot or Geovany Soto to the San Diego Padres for reliever Heath Bell. Not so, Hendry said.

"You have to fight through the rumor mill," Hendry said. "I must have had 10 calls today [about trades] that we were supposedly involved in that were just about done, and some of the teams we've never even talked to. You just have to laugh it off and go on."

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