The Boston Red Sox are on a payroll diet and that may mean Jackie Bradley Jr being traded. Just where is the possible replacement for JBJ?
Has the Jackie Bradley Jr. era finally run its course with the Boston Red Sox? The mercurial center fielder will be a free agent after the 2020 season, but the real issue is before 2020 and it is money – isn’t it always? Bradley will go to the arbitration table and be rewarded for somewhere in the comfortable vicinity of $10 million. How do you replace Bradley if he is traded?
Defensively, the Red Sox current trio of outfielders are interchangeable, meaning either Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts – who may also be traded – can shift to center. The Red Sox internal options are rather bleak or expensive. Gorkys Hernandez? Ouch! Rusney Castillo? His contract would be more fiscally painful than Bradley’s. Brock Holt? He has already bid Boston adieu. J.D. Martinez? A designated hitter can be replaced, but the cost? And Martinez may opt-out.
That leaves the primary market as free agency, but that has significant limitations with age, performance, contractual requirements, and being able to minimize the defensive loss. That will limit the market considerably as the Red Sox will not make overtures to Marcell Ozuna, Kole Calhoun, Brett Gardner, or even my personal favorite, Hunter Pence. You simply have to think cheap and burn incense to the baseball Gods you catch a break.
Corey Dickerson is a left-handed hitting outfielder who once had picket duty for Tampa Bay. Dickerson has hit over .300 the last two seasons and that is an attention-getter along with a Gold Glove. The negative is Dickerson is coming off a 78 game season and an $8.5 million contract. Can they get Dickerson on the cheap – meaning one-year and $5 million? Worth a look, but it is probably slim.
Another lefty is Gerardo Parra who has a .276 career average in 11 seasons. Parra can fill in anywhere in the outfield (9.4 UZR/150) and not kill you defensively. Limited power but he did slam eight home runs for the Nationals in 188 at-bats. Parra is now 32-years-old and maybe in the market for an incentive deal. Can Parra be signed for under $2 million? Probably.
Keeping along the lefty trend is 35-year-old Jarrod Dyson and his career .247 average. What Dyson does bring is an above-average and borderline Gold Glove (career 13.2 UZR/15) defensively and speed. Dyson swiped 30 bases in 2019 getting nailed only four times. Just think Dave Roberts for comparisons. Dyson hit the Diamondbacks for $3.75 million in 2019 and is probably due for shrinkage in that on the free-agent market.
If speed is your thing then 29-year-old switch hitter Billy Hamilton is probably going to be on the market. Hamilton has a $7.5 million option with a $1 million buyout that is expected to be exercised after a two-team .218 season. Hamilton is no dud in the outfield, but at the plate is another story. The real plus is he’ll be cheap and certainly risk will balance that out.
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At one time, soon to be 33-years-old Austin Jackson was pegged as star material. No more. Seven teams in nine seasons spells out Jackson’s value. Jackson a dependable defender is a righty hitter with limited power and a .245 average in 2019. This option has minor league deal all over it.
Back to the salvage yard and the next up or down is 34-year-old Jon Jay. Jay has one unique ability and that is to be hit by a pitch, being plunked 109 times in his 10 seasons – seasons that produced a .285 career average. Jay – a usually dependable outfielder – put down a un-Jay like -34.5 UZR/150. Another candidate for a minor league or incentive loaded deal.
I thought Melky Cabrera was long retired or should have been, but the former Yankee was with the Pirates in 2019 hitting .280 in 133 games. Not bad for the 35-year-old switch-hitter. Cabrera is on a one-year and $1 million deal and will have an interest. For Boston, Cabrera will – like the others mentioned – be a short-term signing with visions that someone in the minors can step in for 2021.
Memories from the American League East is one of the better outfielders of the last ten years and that is right-handed-hitting Adam Jones. Jones, now 34-years-old, hit .260 for Arizona. Jones also was paid $3 million and showed some of his old power with 16 home runs. If the Red Sox could get Jones on a one or two-year deal for similar money this would be my guy.
I could go on with Leonys Martin types but will stop there since it can be depressing, but back to Jones. Would he come to Boston-based on that nasty racial stuff a few years back? Real or not, it could be a final blow if other teams offered similar money. If not – then do some rag picking through the rest of the available.
The stark reality is the Red Sox are stuck with a market that is limited based on their payroll limitations. If management is true to their world on coming in under $208 million, it will be a chipping away process with both large and small expenditures under scrutiny.