Red Sox Redux: Jackie Bradley becomes Allen Craig
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox may have a bleak vision of the future by examining the past. Will Jackie Bradley follow the path of Allen Craig?
When good hitters go bad sometimes they never return to their earlier standards. Baseball history is littered with one or two-season wonders or careers that suddenly derail in their late 20’s or early 30’s. And, of course, you can apply this to pitchers.
Sometimes it is injuries that take their toll on players. Sometimes it is just performance related where suddenly the wheels come off. It could be a Daniel Bard not remembering where the plate was located. And there is also the psychological component. Players often have a fragile psyche and poor can mentally migrate into awful.
The Boston Red Sox recent history has one such player – a remarkable hitter who suddenly just lost that unique talent. The Red Sox also have another player that apparently is following the same disappointing trajectory. Two careers upended by a mysterious and unknown baseball malady that suddenly steals talent.
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Allen Craig was a steal when the Red Sox acquired him with Joe Kelly from the Cardinals for John Lackey. Craig was having what is termed an “off season” in 2014 when the right-handed outfielder/first baseman was hitting just .237 at the time of the trade. Craig was 29-years-old and the conventional wisdom was if he was ten years older his career was toast.
Craig had been a World Series hero, an All-Star in 2013, and had hit .300+ for three consecutive years. Boston expected a rebound especially based on a contract that called for Boston to pay $25 million and change until 2018. Craig hit just .128 and that was probably his high point with the Red Sox.
Craig was shipped to Pawtucket (AAA) and finally released in 2017. The Red Sox also paid an additional $1 million buyout for 2018 and that was the end of the Craig era in Boston, but not elsewhere. Craig signed with the Padres and is hitting in the .260’s range at Triple-A.
Jackie Bradley is well on the same path of duplicating Craig’s crash and burn. With Bradley, you do have a history of depressing slumps followed by extended hitting explosions. Not this season. Bradley is simply lost. Fastballs are destroying Bradley as is just about anything else a hurler presents him.
Unlike Craig, Bradley has an exceptional skill set defensively and is a noted run saver on defense. So far, that aspect of his game has not been diminished by a prolonged slump. But then comes the cure. Is there any? Would a stay at Pawtucket help? Maybe a month-long trip to the DL and having it served in Tahiti?
Unlike Craig, the Red Sox have no long-term commitment to Bradley. His contract is year-to-year based on his service time. At this point, that contract is $6.1 million and the Red Sox are certainly not getting value. And with value comes trading value. As a GM of another team, would you trade a top-ranked prospect or a very serviceable MLB player for Bradley? On a personal financial note, Bradley is costing himself a bundle of cash.
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Just how long do the Red Sox wait? Can Bradley be done at 28-years-old? This has happened before and it will happen again. Just ask Joe Charboneau.