Addition of Bradley Solidifies Cubs Offseason

The transformation of the Cubs offense continues. The signing of right fielder Milton Bradley to a three-year contract worth a potential $30 million is yet another sign the front office is serious about building a team around high-on-base-percentage hitters.

For years, the Cubs had thumbed their noses at the importance of stats such as OBP, but things began to change in earnest last year with the signing of Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukudome.

Even though Fukudome had a poor second half, he wound up with a .359 OBP, and the Cubs led the NL in OBP at .354. The high OBP also helped the Cubs to lead the league in runs scored, with 855.

Manager Lou Piniella can sprinkle several high-OBP guys throughout the lineup this year: Bradley (who led the American League in OBP last year), Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot, who led Cubs regulars in OBP at .387.

The trick will be placing all of these hitters. Piniella may choose to break up Nos. 3-4 hitters Lee and Ramirez, who both bat right-handed, and put switch-hitting Bradley in the cleanup spot. The other problem will be Alfonso Soriano, who likes leading off but whose OBP was a respectable, but not great, .344. Piniella may want to lead off Theriot or Aaron Miles on some days and try to take advantage of Soriano's power lower in the order.


--RHPs Kevin Gregg and Michael Wuertz, and INF Ronny Cedeno are the three remaining players on the team eligible for salary arbitration. The Cubs have not gone to a hearing since the early 1990s. Gregg, whom the Cubs obtained from Florida in a November trade, made $2.5 million last year. The Cubs say they're optimistic they can reach deals with all three players, avoiding arbitration hearings.

--Bradley is a switch hitter, joining Aaron Miles as players who hit from both sides of the plate. The Cubs wanted more left-handed hitting in their lineup. On certain days, the Cubs can trot out a lineup with Bradley in right, Fukudome in center, Fontenot at second and Miles at short, if Theriot needs a day off. C Koyie Hill, who is the backup to Soto, also is a switch hitter.

--Hendry professes to like his new outfield, citing the defensive abilities of Reed Johnson and Fukudome and saying Bradley will perform fine in right field. In addition, the Cubs signed the speedy Joey Gathright this winter as a backup outfielder who can play all three spots and perhaps replace Alfonso Soriano in left field late in games. CF Felix Pie, a onetime phenom, appears to be the odd man out.

--RHP Rich Harden, who has battled chronic shoulder problems going back to his days with Oakland, has worked all winter with Cubs trainers at the team's spring training facility in Arizona. Hendry expressed confidence Harden will be healthy to start the season, but said he'll continue to look for pitching depth.

--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir is a dark-horse candidate to play a significant bench role for the Cubs in 2009. With the Cubs not bringing back 1B/OF Daryle Ward as their primary pinch hitter, Hoffpauir will be given every opportunity to make the club as a pinch hitter and backup to Lee at first base. Hoffpauir, a left-handed hitter, played in 33 games for the Cubs last year, hitting two homers and eight doubles in 73 at-bats and batting .342. He hit 25 homers and drove in 100 runs in only 71 games with Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa.

--LHP Sean Marshall is the in-house favorite to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation, especially if the Cubs don't make a trade to acquire a starting pitcher. Hendry touted Marshall as a valuable swingman who can start or work out of the pen. Hendry also wouldn't rule out RHP Chad Gaudin getting some starts if the Cubs needed it. Gaudin, primarily a reliever, made 34 starts for Oakland in 2007.

INSIDE THE NUM3ERS: .436 -- Bradley's on-base percentage last season, a Rangers club record. That led the American League, as did Bradley's OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of .999.

HE SAID IT: "I don't believe in luck. I believe I blessings, and I consider myself the most blessed man on the face of the earth today." -- Bradley on how it felt to sign with the Cubs.

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