Exploring the possibility of the Red Sox re-signing Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. will be a free-agent once the 37% season is complete. I would expect him to test the market and to be disappointed. I cannot envision another team offering the current Boston Red Sox center fielder a significant multi-year deal with yearly salaries comparable to his current $11 million.
There is a comparison for Bradley in fellow outfielder Kevin Pillar. Pillar signed a one-year deal with Boston for $4.25 million coming off a season in which he slashed 21/87/.264 for the Giants. The baseball world was not exactly banging down the door for the 31-year-old right-handed hitter.
Pillar and Bradley both arrived on the MLB scene in 2013 and both are above average defenders. Bradley has won a Gold Glove Award and Pillar won a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for center field. Both Bradley and Pillar have an extensive highlight reel regarding their catches and throws – especially Bradley with his cannon arm.
In 2019, Bradley had a 1.4 fWAR and Pillar a 1.5 fWAR. Statistically, they both provide occasional extra-base pop and both have good base running skills. You look at the traditional metrics and you see similar performances. Good but not great players. Solid players who on occasion can win with the bat and certainly with the glove.
The Red Sox should let Bradley test the market and then make a reasonable attempt to re-sign him. The negatives offensively are there in blazing statistical data – Bradley has gone down in production since 2016 – a remarkably productive season. The negative is well known as Bradley is Mr. Inconsistency – or when he is hot he is hot and when not he is not. The problem is not is becoming longer each season.
In another baseball age, the Bradley you now see would be a spot player or defensive specialist – a .235 career average will do that. As mentioned regarding 2016, I thought Bradley would be another Trot Nixon or maybe Mike Greenwell – at least with the bat and excluding “Gator” with defensive comparisons. That has not happened.
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The issue is the Red Sox need Bradley. Those occasional hot streaks coming at the right time can be dramatic – just look at the ALCS playoffs in 2018. In the past, a Red Sox lineup could carry a slumping Bradley and maybe or hopefully that will continue in the future. And Bradley takes pride in defense – a defense that has not lagged when he slumps offensively.
The price has to be right to re-sign Bradley. If a team steps in with a lengthy and expensive offer the Red Sox can just say “See ya,” but if the market is similar to Pillar’s, Boston has the chance for a short-term deal of two seasons with possible options for what the market may dictate and that may result in far less than Bradley’s current salary.
The Red Sox are also a bit thin on outfield prospects so the need exists as it does for examining a re-signing of Pillar. Tzu-Wei Lin has suddenly surfaced as “depth” for the outfield. And then there is Andrew Benintendi whose career is now in reverse. Putting J.D. Martinez into the defensive loop may require mental health interventions on the pitching staff. The free-agent market has the usual list of too expensive, too old, too awful – best the devil you know.
The issue may come down to Bradley wishing to remain in Boston. The former round one draft pick appears comfortable and respected by teammates. What you see is what you get with Bradley at this juncture and circumstances have colluded to make this a solid choice by both parties to remain in Boston.