The Boston Red Sox should have suitors for Jackie Bradley Jr. if they put him on the trade market, with the Diamondbacks standing out as a top destination.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was among the players who the Boston Red Sox tendered a contract offer to by Monday’s deadline but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll remain with the team. Trading the Gold Glove award-winning center fielder to save the $11 million he’s projected to make in his final year of arbitration remains a distinct possibility and it appears a market is developing for his services.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Arizona Diamondbacks have interest in Bradley. While this report came out shortly before it was confirmed the Red Sox would tender Bradley a contract, keeping him out of the free agent market this year, Arizona could still acquire him in a trade.
The Diamondbacks, who are run by former Red Sox GM Mike Hazen, would be a prime candidate to pursue Bradley. The Red Sox front office now operates under Chaim Bloom but there are several executives remaining from the previous regimes who worked with Hazen during his time in Boston, which should make it easier to open the lines of communication.
Arizona primarily used Jarrod Dyson in center field last season but the 35-year old is now a free agent. His age and declining performance at the plate may convince the team to move on. The Diamondbacks also non-tendered right fielder Steven Souza Jr. further depleting their outfield depth.
The Chicago Cubs are another potential suitor. That comes as no surprise considering Theo Epstein drafted Bradley in 2011 and showed interest in trading for him in 2015.
Chicago ended up tendering a contract to center fielder Albert Almora, which may cool any interest they may have had in acquiring Bradley. However, Almora’s drastic decline at the plate and in the field could relegate him to a backup role. The lefty Bradley could conceivably platoon in center field with the right-handed hitting Almora, masking each of their greatest weaknesses at the plate.
The New York Mets were the other team mentioned as a potential suitor, although as Rosenthal points out, they may target a center fielder who provides more of an offensive threat. It doesn’t seem as though the Mets have serious interest in Bradley but they should remain on the radar considering their need at the position.
There had been some speculation that Bradley would be non-tendered but that would be a foolish waste of an asset from a team desperate to cut payroll. There are more creative cost-cutting avenues to explore that are far more preferable than giving away talented players.
Bradley’s lack of offensive production may make it difficult for him to be worth his projected salary but his stellar defense gives him some value. A team that isn’t operating under Boston’s tight budget could be enticed into paying for that glove knowing that the streaky Bradley has shown flashes of offensive potential in the past.
Expect Boston to come to terms with Bradley on a 2020 contract before shopping him this winter. They can’t expect a significant haul in return for an offensively challenged outfielder who is one year away from free agency but anything they receive would be better than letting him go for nothing.
If the Red Sox find other ways to shed salary this winter, keeping Bradley for one more year remains a viable option. Boston may be hesitant to move Bradley if the long-rumored Mookie Betts trade rumors come to fruition. They would no longer have a desperate need to cut more payroll in that case and losing two top-notch defensive outfielders wouldn’t sit well with a pitching staff that relies on them to vacuum up fly balls.
We also have to consider that tendering Bradley a contract at the deadline doesn’t guarantee his salary for next season. If the Red Sox are unable to find a trade partner and still need to trim payroll by the time spring training rolls around, they can cut Bradley and be on the hook for only a small portion of his salary.
Bradley’s future with the Red Sox remains in doubt despite that he was tendered a contract. Boston will listen to offers this winter and it’s encouraging to know that there are some potential suitors out there. The Red Sox may not be able to find room in their budget for Bradley but that doesn’t mean other teams can’t squeeze him in.