Indians think Bradley has game

By Jim Callis

July 31, 2001

The Indians are accustomed to making deadline deals to bolster their chances, but John Hart went in a different direction in his final season as GM. On Tuesday, he traded minor league righthander Zach Day to the Expos for outfielder Milton Bradley. The move won’t do much to help Cleveland reach the playoffs in 2001, other than perhaps lighting a fire under Kenny Lofton, but may provide Lofton’s replacement in 2002.

Bradley, 23, is a potential five-tool player who could hit either first or third in a lineup depending on how he develops. A 1996 second-round pick out of Long Beach’s Poly High, he has had trouble adjusting to the majors because he lacks plate discipline at this point. Bradley hit .223-1-19 with seven steals and a 62-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 67 games with the Expos this year, and has career .222-3-34 totals in 109 big league games. At the time of the deal he was at Triple-A Ottawa, where he was hitting .272-2-13 with 14 steals in 35 contests. He provides strong defense in center field, though his temper and inconsistent hustle have been negatives. Bradley now becomes the frontrunner to take over for Lofton, a pending free agent whose .240-7-36 season doesn’t justify his $8 million salary. Bradley was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo for the time being.

Day, 23, is a veteran of July trades, joining Cleveland last year as part of a package the Yankees paid for David Justice. A 1996 fifth-round pick out of a Cincinnati high school, Day has made a complete recovery from rotator-cuff surgery in 1999. He went 9-10, 3.10 with 94 strikeouts in 137 innings this season at Double-A Akron, and won his lone start at Buffalo before the trade. His out pitch is a low-90s sinker. Day was assigned to Ottawa but could get a look soon in Montreal, which has several holes in its rotation.

We won’t know for a while which team fared better in this trade. While Bradley has been more hyped, Day is a solid prospect in his own right. A team with as many pitching problems as the Indians doesn’t usually give up an arm like Day’s.