Can the Red Sox save center fielder Jackie Bradley’s career?
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have gone far enough with Jackie Bradley. Bradley needs an opportunity elsewhere to revive his career.
Just what evidence do you need to make a decision? What does the baseball jury have to examine to make a determination? So far, the evidence of common sense versus Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley is indisputable.
Bradley has sunk lower than the Marianas Trench and is playing as if he was underwater. Yes – another BSI column of the misfortune of Bradley.
My concern regarding Bradley is not waiting for him to extricate himself from his latest and most devilish downturn, but if he will even be an MLB player when free agency arrives. Moving Bradley is mutually beneficial since it gives the Red Sox an opportunity to improve and gives a player a chance to be in an environment that may be more conducive for resurrecting what is now a broken career.
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The issue with Bradley is just what part do you replace him with? If the Red Sox ship Bradley elsewhere for minimal return – and that is what it will be – just who takes over center field? So far, the apparent replacement is Andrew Benintendi who is having his own difficulties. That, however, leaves a vacancy in left.
J.D. Martinez – he of a $110 million contract – has been shuffled to left with minimal defensive embarrassment. Martinez was never advertised as a slick-fielding outfielder and the preponderance of metrics provided evidence. But after watching Manny Ramirez and even Jason Bay I have less and less of a problem accepting the occasional ultra bonehead play in left from JDM.
Then what? The Red Sox need another option to play left when Martinez has DH duties and Benintendi gets a day off – meaning a lefty of note is pitching, or an injury surfaces. The two most likely both have experience in the outfield and may actually represent a defensive downgrade from Martinez or is it?
Blake Swihart‘s career took a two-year hiatus when the left field foul line barrier didn’t agree with his ankle. Up to that point, the Red Sox had a player who looked like he could hit in the .280 range and provide some nice depth with his catching ability. Swihart occasionally is released from bench purgatory to play left, so this is not a new territorial discussion.
Brock Holt has also recovered from his own two-year battle with concussions and attendant vertigo. I had closed the book – obviously prematurely – on Holt, who was smoking the ball hither and yon around the various ballparks until a hamstring sidelined him. But the other part of being in a non-DH position is the glove. Is Holt that bad? In 685 innings playing left Holt carries a -3.6 UZR/150. Acceptable from my lofty view.
The Red Sox also have another internal option, but it is expensive. Rusney Castillo collecting $11.77 million to enjoy sampling the cuisine of the greater Pawtucket area. That money is off the books meaning it has no luxury tax impact. Adding Castillo would put that contract and the next two years back onto the ledger. That is a hefty charge for a fourth outfielder, but there is a potential positive.
Bradley’s contract being moved – if the Red Sox pull the plug – would have an offset of $6.1 million making the poison pill a bit more palatable. Then there is the performance issue. Castillo has actually shown considerable promise last season and this season at Pawtucket. The average is over .300, the defense is solid, and above average speed. Castillo, however, makes free swinging Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero look disciplined.
The risk-taking with Castillo could be beneficial in extracting the Red Sox from such a ponderous contract. If not for the contract Castillo would already be in Boston or elsewhere and possibly a regular, but who wants that fiscal obligation? If Castillo hits, fields, and does reasonably well the Red Sox could salvage some money.
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The situation is Bradley is not a disaster quite yet. The team is still winning, but can they continue to absorb a hole in the lineup with Bradley? And that is not even bringing the catching into the debate. That sais it is better to be pro-active and finally just move on from Bradley. What we have seen the last several years is what to expect. Bradley given an opportunity elsewhere may get back to All-Star status.