There are multiple reports that the Orioles have come to an agreement on a three year deal with 32 year old Chad Bradford. He will reportedly receive between $10 and $11 million over the duration of the deal. The right-hander spent the 2006 season as a key cog in the deep New York Mets bullpen, posting a 2.90 ERA. Used primarily as a specialist, Bradford managed to pitch just 62 innings in 70 appearances.
Chad Bradford's rise to prominence is well documented in the book Moneyball. After failing to stick in the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane noticed Bradford's strong peripheral numbers and groundball rate. In December of 2000, the A's officially acquired Bradford in exchange for catcher Miguel Olivo. Since then, he has become a prominent set-up man in both leagues. After four seasons with the Athletics, Bradford was traded to the Red Sox for Jay Payton. After Boston declined to tender him an offer after 2005, Bradford signed a one year deal with the New York Mets for $1.4 million. He has a career ERA of 3.40 in 381.1 innings and is coming off one of his best seasons.
Bradford works with an unconventional submarine delivery and his fastball tops out around 88 MPH. In fact, he has been known to scrape his knuckles on the mound at times. Bradford also offers a changeup and a curveball, but he is successful because of his excellent command of his fastball that rides in against right-handers. He has a phenomenal career GO/AO ratio of 3.33, which he nearly matched in 2006 (3.10), resulting in one home run allowed the entire season. Left-handers have batted .309 against Bradford during his career, which limits his usage patterns, but he has proven to have a resilient arm. Back injuries sidelined him for half of the 2005 season but he was fully healthy during the 2006 season.
With the signings of Jamie Walker and Danys Baez, Sam Perlozzo will have the freedom to utilize Bradford as a specialist. Orioles fans can expect to see Bradford assume the role that the organization originally hoped Todd Williams could fill in 2006, neutralizing tough right-handed hitters and inducing groundballs in critical situations with runners on base.
Bradford makes the third expensive addition the Orioles have made to the bullpen early this off-season. While he lacks the power arsenal of Danys Baez and the World Series pedigree of Jamie Walker, Bradford has been the most consistently effective of all the recent acquisitions. While he almost certainly improves a bullpen that rated among baseball's worst in 2006, the Orioles have once again been forced to meet the spiraling demands of this off-season's free agent market. It seems fitting that the Orioles have acquired a pitcher that was formerly available on the free talent market by giving Bradford his first multi-year contract. Eventually, they'll be forced to get creative enough to get in on the ground floor on projects like this, or it will be difficult for the Orioles to maintain the payroll flexibility needed to compete with the powerhouses of the AL East.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com