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Who Got The Better End Of The Milton Bradley - Carlos Silva Bad Contract Swap?

With Carlos Silva toiling in the minor league system of the New York Yankees (and continuing to rake in most of his $11.5 million salary), former Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley was designated for assignment today by the Seattle Mariners. That means GM Jack Zduriencik has seven days to place Bradley's contract (of which he's owed about $9 million) on waivers (whereby another team could claim him) and 10 days to either trade or release him.

As bad contract swaps go, the one executed on Dec. 18, 2009, involving these two players was one for the ages. It had a little bit of everything, including redemptive chances for both guys before an all-too-predictable slide into conflict and disappointment.The question is: Who got the better end of the deal?

The Cubs and Mariners swapped the two players in question for reasons that are likely all too obvious to any Chicago sports fan. But let's take a stroll down memory lane anyway.

Bradley signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs in January 2009 to be the team's everyday right fielder. Why? Mainly because he was able to hit left-handed and offered tempting statistical projections. But, after a slow start for the player and a difficult season for the team, Milton gradually (and then quickly) imploded -- talking himself into a season-ending suspension by complaining about the alleged negative atmosphere in and around the Cubs organization.

A couple of years earlier, Silva signed a similarly large deal with the Mariners. And he met much the same fate: Poor results plus nagging injuries with some reportedly cranky attitude thrown in for good measure led to a quick slotting in the "geez-get-rid-of-this-guy" category. So, in late 2009, with the planets aligned and the dollar amounts ... eh, close enough ... Cubs GM Jim Hendry traded Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva.

The two were indeed a perfect match made in baseball hell: Players whose insufferable inability to focus themselves, stay on the field and behave appropriately trumped some tantalizing underlying talent (Bradley's on-base percentage skills with some power; Silva's low walk rate and high ground-ball percentage). So who did, relatively speaking, win out on this inevitably losing deal?

One would have to say the Cubs -- at least on the baseball diamond. Using the relatively simple measure of wins above replacement (WAR, definition here), the North Siders garnered 1.1 WAR out of Bradley and 2.1 WAR out of Silva in their respective single seasons for the team. (In fact, Silva's first-half performance for the 2010 Cubs may stand as one of the most remarkable, if abbreviated, comebacks by a starting pitcher in MLB history.) So, in total, the Cubs got 3.2 wins out these two players during their tenures.

Meanwhile, Bradley was worth -0.2 WAR in his 278 plate-appearance 2010 season for the Mariners and has been worth the exact same amount of wins thus far in 2011 (115 plate appearances). Seattle did get a 1.4 WAR season (28 starts, 153.1 innings pitched) out of Silva in 2008, but he followed that up with a -0.1 2009 season (six starts, 30.1 innings pitched). That's a total of roughly one win.

Milton has one last Chicago connection as well. If he never appears in an MLB game again -- an entirely possible fate, given his toxic reputation throughout baseball -- his last plate appearance will be a ground-ball out to Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox in a 5-2 extra-inning loss for the Mariners on May 8. Bradley is 33 years old.

And Carlos Silva? Given the desperate measures teams must often take to find starting pitching, it's at least conceivable that the 32-year-old right-hander could see MLB action again at some point -- maybe even this season for the Yankees. As of this writing, he's made only one three-inning start with less-than impressive results.