Jackie Bradley, Jr. is rumored to be on the trading block as the Boston Red Sox desperately slash payroll to avoid the luxury tax.
The Boston Red Sox are adamant about trimming the payroll in order to fall beneath the luxury tax line but they also have holes to fill on the roster that they’ll need to spend money on. The only way to balance the budget is by trading away expensive veterans and Jackie Bradley Jr. is one of the top candidates to be moved this offseason.
Bradley is projected to earn $11 million in his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency next year. The Red Sox haven’t shown any signs of making him a priority to retain long-term, leading many to believe he could be traded now rather than letting him walk for nothing in a year.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Red Sox are expected to trade Bradley this winter.
"“One way or another, the Sox’s new chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom, will need to be creative. A trade of center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., projected to earn $11 million in his final year before free agency, seems all but certain.”"
Rosenthal predicts that the Red Sox will replace Bradley by trading for Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick, who played for Alex Cora when he was the bench coach in Houston. Marisnick doesn’t provide much at the plate, hitting a meager .233 with a .700 OPS and 10 home runs this season. It’s not as if the streaky Bradley is much better though.
The allure of Marisnick is that he could capably replace Bradley in center field. His five defensive runs saved ranked fifth among American League center fielders this year and he was second in the league with 12 DRS the previous year.
Marisnick is projected to earn $3 million in arbitration next season before joining Bradley in free agency. Swapping the two center fielders would save the Red Sox an estimated $8 million, moving them significantly closer to their payroll goals.
It’s unclear if the Astros are willing to move Marisnick but they may be willing to listen considering he’s only utilized as a part-time player. He’s split time in the outfield with Josh Reddick, pushing George Springer over to right field when he plays. Marisnick saw limited time in the postseason and was mostly used as a defensive replacement.
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Bradley wouldn’t necessarily need to be shipped to Houston. The Red Sox could trade him elsewhere for bullpen help or prospects, then deal for Marisnick separately.
The trade route isn’t the only option for replacing Bradley. There are several outfielders that the Red Sox could target in free agency who could potentially be signed for cheaper than it would cost to keep Bradley. Corey Dickerson, Yasiel Puig, and Kole Calhoun are all predicted to sign short-term deals for less than $11 million per year. They would each be more expensive than Marisnick but Boston wouldn’t have to surrender any trade chips to acquire them and they would still save some money.
The desperation to shed payroll has many wondering about the nightmare scenario of trading Mookie Betts or the pipe dream of unloading their overpriced starting pitchers in order to meet their financial goals. Either of those scenarios severely hinders Boston’s chances to compete in 2020. However, trading a few expendable pieces and replacing them with cheaper options would allow the Red Sox to clear payroll without giving up their best players.
Dealing Bradley won’t be enough but it’s a start. Losing his breathtaking defense in center field would sting but it wouldn’t hurt nearly as much as losing one of their stars. Considering his salary, proximity to free agency and suitable options that can be found at a fraction of the cost, Bradley’s days in Boston appear to be numbered.