The Boston Red Sox reportedly passed on a deal to bring Yasiel Puig to Boston for Jackie Bradley. Was this a good, bad or indifferent deal?
Yasiel Puig is not Rusney Castillo. I suspect the Boston Red Sox once considered Castillo quite similar in their internal projections of future success, but we know how that eventually panned out. But the Red Sox did have a shot at the real thing according to a recent article in the Boston Globe by Alex Speier.
The Dodgers and Red Sox contemplated a swap of left-handed hitting Jackie Bradley for Puig. A straight-up transaction that was “quickly” dismissed by the Red Sox. The reasoning is twofold with the first being years of control. Bradley is under team control for three years a Puig for two years. The second is the value placed on the defense Bradley brings to the team.
The first item of note in any transactions is the “numbers” and that means the most important numbers – offense. For Bradley, it is best to say that 2017 was an offensive disappointment with a slash of .245/.323/.402 which is more than acceptable if the long ball and run production is attached. It was not with 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 133 games. In 2017 Bradley had a 2.3 fWAR.
Puig’s numbers were more impressive. The 27-year-old right-hand hitter slashed .263/.346/.487 with a career-high 28 home runs and 74 RBI in 152 games. Puig posted a 2.9 fWAR for 2017. Neither Bradley nor Puig will be the baseball poster child for offensive consistency either year to year or even month to month.
Bradley’s most significant and impressive forte is his glove work and glove can be spectacular, but then comes the howitzer the 27-year-old Bradley owns. A strong arm and an accurate arm are too often mutually exclusive, but not with JBJ. Despite his glove work, Bradley has never won a Gold Glove. After watching Byron Buxton this season Bradley may never win one in the American League.
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Puig’s defense has often been termed “erratic,” but then the metric reality sets in. Puig was ranked the top right field defender in the National League. With 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a 15.5 UZR/150. For Bradley, it was 10 DRS and a 4.9 UZR/150. A warning sign is Puig’s center field ability – he is no Bradley with a career -1 DRS and -8.9 UZR/150 in 519.1 innings.
My first glance is – and I will dismiss (despite concern) the somewhat tainted personal issues of Puig – is Puig offers up some far more interesting power numbers than Bradley, but that is based on his 2017 home run totals. In his earlier full season (2014) Puig hit just 16 out in 148 games. Is that worth the risk? In 2016 Bradley had 26 in his 156 games.
My second glance is defense. Puig seems – if you adore defensive metrics – ideal for right field. That would mean displacing Mookie Betts with a move to center or even Andrew Benintendi to center and Puig to left where he has very limited experience.
My third glance is the contract years. Puig will certainly cost more than Bradley since it appears offense skewers the fiscal books more than defense. Boston would be giving up a year and with the value of WAR that could mean $13-16 Million that should be directed elsewhere.
The Red Sox have not stated Bradley is on the market, but one rumor had Bradley shipped off for Jose Abreu. Boston – meaning Dave Dombrowski – has mentioned he is in no rush to trading Bradley. That is not exactly a vote of confidence. Bradley may get traded and he may get traded to the Dodgers, but I would envision any deal as multiple players and not an even up swap. Best that the Red Sox politely passed.