Boston Red Sox: Clubs Express Interest in Jackie Bradley Jr


They say the best offence is a good defense, or in short, Jackie Bradley Jr. The Boston Red Sox outfielder has an elite glove which turns extremely athletic plays into child’s play. So common is it to witness Bradley make the most stunning defensive maneuvers look effortless that it’s easy to take it for granted. But this is who Bradley is. Bradley gets up in the morning, dives out of bed through his Red Sox branded bathrobe, sliding majestically down the stairs and landing at the kitchen table in time to catch the toast from the toaster.

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Such a glove as Bradley’s, golden in all but name, is valued today perhaps more than ever. Don’t believe me? See the Los Angeles Angels, who started the offseason hot stove off by parting ways with the last trade chip in the organization, and their top pitching prospect to boot, in return for now-former Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and his unrivaled fielding ability at the position. Why? One explanation can come from the 2015 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals. A team who put defensive strength ahead of big bats and it may not have been pretty, but it worked.

The usual form is for teams each offseason to attempt to move with the baseball flow and replicate the success of the best team from the previous season. So it comes as no surprise that suddenly Bradley’s glove is part of the discussion again, but with a twist.

Bradley, still only 25 years old, featured regularly in the 2014 lineup where his athleticism drew praise but was panned for his bat being so cold that he was essentially an offensive black hole. Almost a third of his painful 384 at-bats ended in a strikeout and by the end of the year instead of GM’s contacting him in interest he was only taking calls from Mendoza looking for his line back. Bradley finished up with .198/.265/.266 on the year.

What mystified us all was that Bradley showed an incredible propensity to rake in AAA. Why didn’t this translate into hits or power in the Majors? Is Bradley Jr just an AAAA hitter and worthwhile for his glove alone? The question seemed to be answered affirmatively early in 2015, as sporadic ups and downs from Boston to Pawtucket and back again saw spot starts that did little to cement Bradley’s role in the Red Sox lineup. Then August happened.

Bradley exploded in August. I mean exploded. His line for the month was .354/.429/.734 and he clubbed 5 homers, 3 triples and 9 doubles. From someone who could have been the worst hitter in baseball to an unstoppable extra-base hitting machine, who also happens to be the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Uh oh.

Sure, Bradley would cool off a bit in September, and even when hot he was still striking out almost as much as before, but the potential was shown to be there and Bradley is still young enough to harness it more frequently. So it is that, once the offseason hot stove started to burn, it appears many clubs have expressed an interest in Bradley, as reported by the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo:

"“A year ago, Bradley wouldn’t have brought much in return. Now, the Mariners, Royals, Mets, and Cubs have expressed interest, and perhaps the Nationals.”"

Certainly, his glove should provide reason enough for the above clubs to come knocking at Fenway cap in hand, but throw in the fact he showed an ability to hit and hit for power in the Majors and take a number and join the line please.

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Were the Red Sox to consider moving Bradley, now may indeed be the opportune time as the free agency outfield options aren’t exactly bursting with young, inexpensive talent. Least of all with the ability to glide around the park on his invisible flying trapeze. That said, it’s hard to imagine how Boston would use Bradley at this point. With the Kimbrel trade, the Red Sox bullpen is solid enough that another big-name reliever may not be required, certainly not at the expense of Bradley.

Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski has made no secret of his plans to acquire an ace this offseason. Could Bradley go towards this in a trade? Perhaps. While a team like the Mets, who have more aces at their disposal right now than in their previous franchise history combined, likely wouldn’t listen on Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz, it’s possible they might on Zack Wheeler. While Wheeler is only 25, he is returning from Tommy John surgery and that undoubtedly lowers his value.

For all the teams listed above that would like Bradley, there exists yet one more that want him too – your Boston Red Sox. As Cafardo notes:

"“The GMs we spoke to said Bradley is one of the most coveted outfielders this offseason. “His low cost, his elite defense, and his emerging offense” are all major selling points, according to an American League GM. But those are also reasons Boston wants to keep him.”"

Not only that, but Dombrowski himself tried to acquire Bradley for the Detroit Tigers when he was GM there, only to rebuffed by then Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington. If Dombrowski valued Bradley’s defensive ability enough then, most certainly the promise of future offensive potential should only make him more valuable in his eyes.

Trading Bradley makes sense at this time, but in other ways not so much. For a start, the drop in flexibility would require a commitment to Rusney Castillo, who Dombrowski finds much less consistent in the stretch. Finding a replacement for Bradley itself would be difficult, particularly a right handed batter, as the market is small and not many stand out. One would imagine that the Red Sox would need to be blown away by an offer to send Bradley flying out of Boston, particularly as they’ve all but ruled out big trades with prospects for the rest of the offseason. Of course, never say never.

Former Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would perhaps fill the gap, with decent defenses and a more consistent bat. It’s possible also that Dombrowski may use Bradley as a way to jettison one of the albatross contracts he was saddled with when he took the position, such as Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval. Getting rid of either, or both, would be the true definition of addition via subtraction, but Bradley alone may not be enough to entice teams to take on board their toxic contracts.

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Either which way, Bradley’s stock has risen immeasurably, much as he rises majestically to reel in any fly balls sent his way, and he certainly stands to provide the Red Sox with much value. Whether that be by use or by trade, we’ll have to wait and see.