Red Sox made a mistake tendering CF Jackie Bradley Jr. a contract
By Tim Starr
The Red Sox had to make their final decisions on who to tender contracts. They missed their opportunity to cut Jackie Bradley Jr. and save $11 million.
Per MLB Trade Rumors, Jackie Bradley Jr. is set to earn about $11 million in the upcoming 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. He is a candidate to be traded as he also appeared fourth on the MLB Trade Rumors top 25 trade candidates.
The Red Sox seem interested in dealing the center fielder, but there is a lot of risk when it comes to trading him. Let’s go over a few of the reasons why tendering Bradley a contract was the wrong decision.
It is well documented that the Red Sox have a goal to cut payroll for this upcoming 2020 season. Bradley is a below-average hitter at this point in his career, but he can still flash the leather to go along with his cannon of an arm. Even with his defensive accolades, he is still getting overpaid for this upcoming season.
Boston can’t afford to hold on to players that are making more than their production shows they deserve, especially when they have the chance to set them loose. If Bradley is still manning center field at the end of the 2020 season and Chaim Bloom finds his team barely over the luxury tax, he will regret holding onto him.
Lack of a clear market
While many teams have needs in the outfield such as the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and New York Mets, there is reason to believe Bradley may not have as large of a market to be dealt to.
For example, the Mets are in a similar situation as the Red Sox in the fact that both clubs are dangerously close to their payroll limits. While the 2018 gold glover is definitely capable with the glove, New York may also not be interested in paying north of $10 million for a defensive-based player.
Also, the Mets reportedly have interest in Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte, per Jon Heyman. If they were to acquire a Marte or a similar player, that would definitely take them out of running, thus shrinking the market even farther.
The market for Bradley may not be as large as previously conceived as other outfielders emerge as trade candidates. For example, Marte, Kyle Schwarber, Charlie Blackmon, and others have entered the trade market.
If the teams in the market for an outfielder opt for the more premium options such as Blackmon or Marte, the Red Sox may get stuck with JBJ. That would be a disappointment as the payroll would increase by $11 million because Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox front office couldn’t correctly gauge the trade market.
Team might not eat entire salary
If the Red Sox center fielder were dealt to another team, the club acquiring him may not want to eat the entire $11 million salary he will be owed. A team that would acquire Bradley would be one that needs a few complementary pieces in order to get over the hump.
For example, the Indians have a few needs on their roster – center field, infield depth, and bullpen help. If they wanted to acquire Bradley, eating $11 million may prevent them from up upgrading other areas, especially when they’re not acquiring a top player (JBJ had a 90 OPS+ in 2019). Also, if the market is not as large as imagined, (discussed in the previous section) teams will have more leverage thus taking on less of his earnings.
If Boston ends up trading Jackie, they may not be able to cut his whole salary which is not worth it because the whole point of trading him is to get his salary off of the payroll.
They may not acquire medium/top prospects
This section goes hand-in-hand with the last section as the quality of prospects they acquire in a trade will be based off of how much salary the Red Sox still have to pay. If a team relieves Boston of the 2018 gold glover and eats all of his salary, then they will send a bottom of the barrel prospect in return. If the Red Sox pay half of his salary, they may send back a medium prospect.
The quality of prospect has a direct correlation with the amount of salary eaten and the size of the market for the center fielder. If Bloom chooses to prioritize building up the farm system as opposed to pleasing John Henry’s checkbook, then he may opt to eat some salary in order to obtain a desirable asset.
Tendering Bradley a contract could end up being a huge mistake. While the Red Sox could end up executing a transaction similar to how they dealt Sandy Leon to the Indians, there is a high chance this won’t end up working out for Boston.
A very realistic outcome is that Bradley is traded but the Red Sox have to pay a portion of his $11 million owed in 2020, or they receive nothing in return. There is also a future in which JBJ is manning center field in Fenway Park because Bloom and the Red Sox front office couldn’t find a trading partner for the former gold glover.
Overall, there is a chance that tendering Bradley a contract works out for Boston, but it seems unlikely. There is a very big threat where the Red Sox aren’t able to aid the payroll and shed the center fielder’s $11 million dollar salary which could be detrimental for the future of the franchise.