Jackie Bradley Jr. still has support from his Red Sox teammates
Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for, the Red Sox take the field for the first time in 2021 and begin their journey toward October. One man that won’t be joining them on that adventure is former center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The defensive dynamo is still on the free-agent market despite interest from teams around the league. Even with JBJ unlikely to return to the squad, his teammates are still speaking highly of him.
Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes recently spoke to the media while in camp and he didn’t shy away from his feelings when the topic of Jackie came up. The duo was drafted in the same year by Boston and have both been able to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy with the team. Barnes knows all too well just how good Jackie is with his glove and hopes to see his friend with a team before Opening Day.
“I think the fact Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t have a job right now is absolutely mind-boggling,” Barnes said. “To me, he’s the best defensive center fielder in the game. A guy who has won multiple World Series and absolutely needs to be on a baseball team right now.”
I’m in full agreement with Barnes as I can’t quite get why JBJ is still a free agent this far into the year. Jackie will never be known as the best hitter in the lineup, but he sure as hell could be one of the best defenders. With players of his caliber and style, you pay him for saving runs, not scoring them. Over his time with the Red Sox, Jackie may have amassed more Web Gems than anyone else in the league.
A career .239/.321/.412/.732 hitter, the center fielder actually saw his best career year in the COVID shortened season, when many on this team struggled. Through 2020, he totaled a .283/.364/.450/.814 line with 7 homers and 22 RBI. His all-around play was one of the few bright spots this past season as he also amassed a beautiful 1.000 Fld% with 3 assists and not a single damn error.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Barnes sees a bit of himself in JBJ’s current situation as he’s set to hit free agency after this season and has a similar track record. When he’s on he’s phenomenal, but when things aren’t clicking he can be a liability. So as much as he’s trying to show support for his friend and former teammate, he very well may be making just as much of an argument for himself. This needs to be a big season for the righty as he has to show not just the Red Sox but also the rest of the league that he can be an asset.
For Jackie, I don’t know where he’ll land as it feels like every week that goes by another team has their name in the rumor mill for his services. If I had my say in the matter, JBJ would’ve already been signed and would be working out in Fort Myers with the rest of the team. Sadly, it feels like those hopes are lost and we’ll be seeing him in another uniform come Opening Day. Red Sox Nation will never forget what he did for this organization during his tenure and neither will his teammates.