[Please pass the mustard:  Milton Bradley’s contract in hand, Cub GM Jim Hendry gets ready for a big lunch.]

UPDATE (9:10 AM PST) rumor mill for Bradley now involves the Padres Heath Bell and Rockies outfielders.

So, Mike Bauman’s MLB column yesterday looks tube fed to him from Cub Central.  The basic premise is that trading Milton Bradley is “mandatory,” eating his contract is acceptable, and any complaints from Bradley re racism are laughable. Writes Bauman:

A defense of Milton Bradley would require an abiding belief that he has been the victim of racial prejudice in Montreal, in Cleveland, in Los Angeles, in San Diego, in Chicago, etc. Eventually, you would wind up arguing that there has been a conscious conspiracy to ruin Bradley’s career. And you would have to argue that this conspiracy extends not only through most of baseball but through most of North America.

You don’t want to argue that position, because it would be refuted on a daily basis by each and every non-Caucasian baseball player who may have encountered prejudice along the way, but who has competed, succeeded, prospered. No, this is probably more about Milton Bradley than about the rest of the world. And it is also about the Cubs, believing that Bradley would be a model citizen simply because he told them that is what would happen.

No, actually, none of that is true.  Bradley has gotten into lots of disputes about racism over his career, but he’s also managed to succeed while doing it.  I wish people would keep in mind, it was the Chicago press that played the race card first, on day one of Bradley’s signing, by saying he was too combative to deal with Wrigley’s fan racism.  Except for Bauman, no one denies that about Wrigley.  Anyway, I posted on mlb’s message board about this and was pleasantly surprised to see other fans think Jim Hendry’s ego is the problem here too and that Bradley is not worth trading at any price.  Hendry has a lot to answer for from Dusty Baker thru Bradley.  You have to wonder if they’re all divas or he is?   At any rate, Phil Rogers column today notes that Jim Hendry didn’t seem concerned at all about losing Curtis Granderson to NY, while other reports show him obsessed with dumping Bradley.  Hendry apparently tried some three-way deals on Grandy, then gave up.  As Paul Sullivan writes this morning, Hendry wants an early Xmas gift in getting rid of Bradley today, and he’s become the joke of the winter meetings trying to dump a player who he himself devalued so much with last year’s 15-day suspension:

Two days into baseball’s winter meetings, the Bradley situation has turned into a running joke, with team officials tripping over each other to deny any interest in the Cubs outfielder.

In the age of Tweeting, blogging and Facebooking, the Bradley rumors took on a life of their own Tuesday, promoting serial denials.

But the long-awaited dumping of Bradley could come as soon as Wednesday, according to one Cubs source who expected “one of the teams” that had been rumored from Day One as the landing spot.

While the Rays appear to be the “leader” in the Bradley sweepstakes, in a Pat Burrell deal that would include the Cubs eating most of Bradley’s contract, rumors of a mystery suitor surfaced Tuesday.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was mum, as he has been during the drawn-out saga. Hendry used to complain about rumors at past winter meetings. But now he sits back and laughs off the Bradley rumors.

The more, the merrier?

“I’m always hopeful,” Hendry said. “Optimistically, hopefully we’ll do something.”

As Hendry spoke, a report on the latest trade rumors glared from a laptop sitting on a hotel room table. Hendry confirmed he met Monday with Bradley’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, who have been his only conduit to the Cubs employee.

Bradley is going somewhere in what may be the ugliest divorce in Cubs history. Surprisingly, sources close to Bradley insist he’s not overly “anxious” for a resolution. No matter where he winds up or who pays him, Bradley is guaranteed the remaining $21 million on his contract, and the Ricketts family probably will be paying the bulk of it.