Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr. looks to the free agent horizon
The day is here, Jackie Bradley Jr. suited up for what may be his final game in a Red Sox uniform. Boston’s dynamic centerfielder will hit free agency once the season ends and it’s hard to tell where he may land. We all know that his glove is golden and his bat can be finicky, but the bottom line is that he’d improve any team that he signed for. Could he wind up back at Fenway Park when all is said and done?
That’s a tough question, at least from my vantage point. For some reason, Boston has attempted to move JBJ at each and every junction that they could over his time with the team. Whether it be that they think they can fetch a great return or that his ability is too low for his salary, his name is always in the rumors. I’ve never understood that, either. Yeah, his bat may not always be at David Ortiz levels, but there are few that can do what he does in the outfield. The man is a damn defensive wizard.
Ahead of yesterday’s win over the Braves, Jackie took to Zoom to address the media for possibly the last time in Boston. He took a trip down memory lane while also having his sights set on the future. It was a nice chat with the World Series champion on where he’s been with the Red Sox and where he may be going down the road. He was asked directly though about a possible return to Boston, and he gave a very distinct answer.
"“If the opportunity presented itself, and if things were I guess how things play out, then yes,” Bradley said."
It’s clear that despite the lack of respect that he sometimes gets from the front office, he loved his time here and would want to see his playing days out patrolling center field at Fenway. The scenario would have to be perfect for both sides to make something work but I can’t imagine JBJ not in the lineup in 2021.
There are some possible free agent options but all would cost significantly more than Jackie and have far more question marks surrounding them. Boston has both Triston Casas and Jarren Duran currently at the alternate site in Pawtucket and both made some serious noise this summer. Ahead of the season, I thumbed Durran as the heir apparent to Bradley if the incumbent were to head for greener pastures this winter. It’s just a matter of the organization wanting to call him up.
I honestly don’t know what the team is going to do as far as Jackie is concerned, and I really don’t think they know either. His 2020 has been incredibly strong but with his usual cold spells mixed in. Despite the shortened season, he still put up some impressive numbers (.283/.364/.450/.814), some of which were either career highs or pretty damn close. He’ll surely have the attention of the league once free agency opens up but I think based on his answers, he’s hoping one team gives him the call.
"“I’m sure we’ll talk during the offseason,” Bradley said. “And kind of see where that goes. I’m never really one to talk business, so to speak, until time. But I’m excited for the opportunity. And I think that it’s going to be an interesting one.”"
Jackie had a hell of a send-off if this truly was his final game with the Red Sox. Not only did he cap off one of his best offensive seasons to date with a 3-6 performance that included a homer, but he made another one of his trademark catches in center. If there were ever a thing as an audition for the league, Jackie did that today. He made sure that everyone knew what he was capable of on both sides of the ball and will leave a positive image for the rest of the league to look at come free agency.
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As I mentioned above, I want JBJ back with the Red Sox not just in 2021, but for the foreseeable future. I’ve seen quite a few centerfielders in my time but none have controlled Fenway Park like Jackie. I asked my father today where he’d put Bradley as far as the centerfielders he’s seen for the Red Sox and he had him right up there with Fred Lynn. That’s some damn good company to be in.
I don’t know what Chaim Bloom is going to do this offseason as he now has full access to the company credit card and can spend without penalty. There’s always the rumor of splashing the cash on George Springer but that would be a massively poor decision by the Red Sox CBO. He’d be overpaying for a guy that is similar to JBJ in the batter’s box but far inferior defensively. He could just as easily give Jackie a deal in the ballpark of 3-years/$36M, it’ll be a raise for him and it gives Boston another few years to develop Duran and Casas.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has been equal parts frustrating and exciting during his tenure with the Red Sox. I can’t deny my disappointment when he’s ice-cold at the plate. But for every poor at-bat, he made a catch in the outfield that you have to watch on replay a dozen times. If I could have anyone in centerfield for Boston going forward, it’s Jackie. However, if this is it for the former World Champion, then all I have to say is thank you.