Just how far do the Boston Red Sox have to go with Jackie Bradley Jr.? What we have witnessed is not unusual but is ordinary by Bradley.
There is no specific malady to describe the reason there is a poor performance by Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr. this season. The current struggles offensively are àpropos of Bradley’s entire career and expecting a dramatic change is merely subscribing to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. After seven seasons Bradley’s career MLB average is .234. BSI’s Brendan Mizgala recently described Bradley’s struggles, but now the time may be to check other options.
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This season Bradley is last in the American League among right-fielders with a -1.0 fWAR. That figure reflects an across the board dysfunction be it metric or traditional statistical evaluation. For his seven MLB seasons, Bradley has an 89 wRC+. Bradley has a yearly event that is well noted by his detractors and that is one of his almost legendary hot streaks. Unfortunately, the hot streak necessary to extricate him from his current slump will have to be a doozy.
The sample is small – just 236 innings (through 5/2), but the results are interesting regarding Bradley’s defensive metrics. A -7 for DRS (Defensive Runs Saved)? A -25 for UZR/150? Is the fielding fast becoming a match for the hitting?
The price tag for Bradley this season is $8.5M and free agency will be available for Bradley after the 2020 season. At his current pace, I do not expect a jam-packed lineup at the free agent check out counter. A gentle point is to say “Bradley is underperforming.”
Just what do you do? Is it necessary to do the outfield shuffle? The Red Sox have Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts who have demonstrated competency patrolling center field. Either could move in, but then what? J.D. Martinez certainly can play the outfield and certainly can make you see why DH is the best option for Martinez.
The Red Sox are constrained by payroll considerations and that means the exiled Rusney Castillo. Castillo is now and continues to enjoy the International League. And with an $11.773M salary, his restriction status to Triple-A purgatory may be assured. Or is it? Could a tweak in payroll manipulation – meaning a trade of Bradley – be the impetus for a return of one of the Red Sox more documented signing failures?
The fact is Castillo has certainly done the job in the International League as a .319 hitting All-Star in 2018. This season Castillo has four home runs and is swatting close to .300. In Castillo’s brief (337 PA’s) MLB career the 31-year-old Cuban expatriate hit .262. Castillo – like Betts and Benintendi – can play any outfield position, but certainly not with the aplomb of Bradley – at least the Bradley that collected a Gold Glove for 2018.
As each game is added to the books closer to decision day begins to surface with another player making an early impact. Michael Chavis is making the most of an opportunity and packing him up for Pawtucket delivery may not be in the plans. But Chavis could replace Martinez – at least part-time – as a DH if the Red Sox pull the Bradley trade trigger. Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are possibly DH options for a transitory Martinez.
The Red Sox other outfield options can be sliced down to Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin and are one or both a full-time replacement? Both seem to stay in their current roles as filler for the lineup with Lin possibly returning to Pawtucket for full-time duty.
The Red Sox can certainly survive poor offense when counterbalanced by the exceptional defense of Bradley, but what happens when exceptional defense erodes? With Bradley each season we hear the same mentioning of him as a possible trade chip, but at this point, it is just a white ($1) chip.