Red Sox roster move comes back to haunt them as Jackie Bradley Jr. returns to Fenway with Blue Jays
Red Sox paying Jackie Bradley Jr. to play against them with Toronto Blue Jays
When the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Boston Red Sox for three games this week, they’ll do so with an advantage handed to them on a silver platter.
On Tuesday night, Jackie Bradley Jr. will be back in centerfield at Fenway Park, but for the first time in his decade-long MLB career (the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t play here in 2021), he won’t be patrolling his usual spot for the home team.
When the Sox released Bradley earlier this month, their division rivals immediately scooped him up. Worse yet, since the Sox are on the hook for the remainder of his salary (the Jays only have to pay him the prorated league minimum), Bradley will be paid by both teams this week.
In other words, the Sox are paying one of the greatest defensive centerfielders in franchise history to rob them of hits in their own house.
Chaim Bloom and the Sox front office made some questionable roster decisions during the offseason and at this month’s trade deadline, but bringing Bradley back via trade with the Brewers is near the top of the list. He’s always been a solid hitter at Fenway (.262/.339/.436 over 466 games), but the Sox gave up a serious power bat in Hunter Renfroe to reunite with their longtime CF (and add prospects) after he’d had the worst offensive season of his career by far. The Sox hoped that a return home, combined with only playing in opportune situations, would make him a valuable addition. Instead, injuries to other questionable roster additions forced them to use Bradley more than originally planned, causing him to struggle.
But releasing Bradley never really made sense, especially since they stuck with Jarren Duran, who doesn’t hit or field particularly well, and could’ve been optioned back to Triple-A. The Sox had to know that any contending team would grab Bradley for pennies, making it even harder for them to get back in the wild-card race. Of course, the Jays snatched him up immediately; they’ve had a front-row seat to his outfield excellence for a decade, and he’s got ample postseason experience, including some very clutch hits. In fact, his 2018 ALCS grand slam was off their former closer, Roberto Osuna.
Bloom’s roster construction was expensive, risky, and shoddy, and Bradley is among those who suffered for it. This week, he will likely add to Boston’s season-long suffering. The Sox have struggled against fellow AL East teams all season long and even gave up a franchise-record 28 runs to the Jays in a horrible game earlier this summer. Allowing Bradley – who’s hitting .288/.317/.468 at Fenway this season, by the way – to reach free agency and latch on with a team that’s already killing them this year feels like an enormous white flag, especially since they’re paying him millions regardless.
Bradley is in Toronto’s lineup tonight, and back in the ballpark where he’s most comfortable. When he inevitably robs one of his former teammates of a homer or wall-ball double, just remember that all of this could’ve been avoided.