The ballad of the Red Sox and Jackie Bradley Jr.
We’re a few days into training camp for the 2020 season and the baseball world is buzzing as players are talking more and more. One of the topics that came up during a media call today was the upcoming free agency of Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. After spending the first seven years of his career in Boston, the lefty will now be able to test the market.
It’s been a long and winding road for JBJ and the Red Sox as it feels like they were never on the same page. No matter how hard he played defense, or how his bat performed, his name was always in the trade rumors.
Over the last few seasons, it’s felt like Jackie was almost traded a dozen times. And yet, nothing has ever come to fruition. In a few short months, that’ll all change as he can now walk and see what the rest of the league thinks of his abilities.
I never understood why it was that Dave Dombrowski was always trying to move the defensive dynamo. Bradley’s bat may not have always been white-hot but he’s one of those players that earn his money with his glove and not his bat. When we look back at the last few seasons it really feels as if Jackie had a game-saving catch every night. I know ya’ll remember that homer he stole from the Orioles in Baltimore last year.
Things won’t be all rainbows and sunshine though for the players that have their eligibility coming in 2021. The league is taking a serious financial hit in 2020 due to COVID and it’ll likely take a couple of years for the money to start rolling back in. JBJ isn’t exactly Mookie Betts when it comes to commanding a monster contract, but even his current wage of $11M could scare off some suitors.
Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. looks to the future
On a media call Monday, Jackie was asked about his soon to be free agent status and what he thinks about his future.
"“Honestly, without there even being a season right now being played everything right now is kind of speculation,” Bradley said during a Zoom call Monday. “I’m going to try to focus on the things I can control. That’s one thing that’s going to be out of my control as of right now.”"
I don’t think I could’ve said it any better myself. Not stressing yourself with things that are far beyond your control won’t do any good at all. I remember during Winter Weekend he was asked about the numerous times he’s almost been traded. Jackie joked that he’d been traded seven, eight, nine times already in his career. That mentality is the right way to go about this, as it is still a business after all.
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When I look at the Red Sox roster going beyond 2020 I’m not sure who they can plug in to replace JBJ. I once predicted that Jarren Duran will be the heir apparent in centerfield and I still believe that. But with the MiLB season being canceled, Duran is missing out on some serious playing time for his development, meaning his promotion will likely be delayed. With Kevin Pillar also heading for free agency, Boston’s options are pretty limited to fill the vacancies, Bradley may be the best choice.
"Bradley added, “You’ve got to make the best of what you have and play the cards you’re dealt.”"
I wouldn’t be surprised if Chaim Bloom offers Jackie at least a one-year deal to buy the Red Sox some time to progress Duran along. I don’t think they’d go as high as $11M, but then again, it may be an investment that’s more than worth it in the long run. Even if they come to terms on a hometown deal that’ll keep Jackie in Boston for a few years to allow him to get Duran ready to take over, I wouldn’t hate it.
The future of the league is up in the air and I’m still a bit skeptical of there even being a season in 2020. Every time it feels like we learn something about COVID it completely changes the question. For Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Red Sox, it feels like their relationship may be coming to an end. Free agency is going to come in quick and JBJ’s time in Boston could be over. If that winds up being so, then I’m beyond thrilled that I got to see such a talented player wear the Red Sox uniform.