MLB Free Agent Profile: Jackie Bradley Jr.by Andersen Pickard October 29, 2020 1 comment
The Boston Red Sox suffered their way through a painful 2020 season. One of the few players in Boston’s core who produced yet another successful season was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The defensive wizard made countless incredible plays in the Fenway Park outfield, boasting his glovework quite frequently.
Although Bradley flashed the leather day in and day out, his bat was not nearly as hot. At the end of the day, Chaim Bloom and the new Red Sox brass aren’t willing to pay him significant money to be a free out in the lineup. Therefore, Bradley will likely take his services elsewhere this winter, packing his bags and leaving New England as the Red Sox embark on a new era of baseball.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect Bradley’s market to look like this offseason.
Bradley, a seventh-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, struggled in his early years but started to develop into an incredible ballplayer in the middle of the 2010s. In 2016, Bradley played in 156 games, slashing .267/.349/.486 with 26 home runs. He posted 19.1 fWAR at the plate and 10.5 fWAR in the field, making him worth a total of 5.2 fWAR that year.
Fast forward to 2020, when Bradley posted career-highs in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.364), walk percentage (10.6 percent), strikeout percentage (22.1 percent), and BABIP (.343). Meanwhile, in the field this year, Bradley did not make an error, converting on 120 putouts and three assists. He finished the season with 6.5 offensive and 2.6 defensive fWAR, good for a total of 1.4 wins above replacement.
Bradley Jr., a Boras client, was set to earn $11 million this season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He enters the first free agency of his career with nearly $25 million in total career earnings.
Bradley will likely need to land with a team that needs defensive help in the outfield and can slightly sacrifice their lineup for extra glovework. Ironically, Boston is a team that fits this description, but there is one area the Red Sox aren’t sold on: his value. Defensive wizardry is immensely important, but with a projected value of $9 million per season, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Red Sox bringing back the beloved 30-year-old.
Bradley will also likely be looking for job security and a multi-year deal. It’s quite possible that the sweepstakes for his services come down to the length of the contract, in which case the team offering him that extra year would be his top choice. Expect him to seek out a three-year deal worth between $25 million and $30 million. Such a deal would provide his new team with the best glove in baseball for a seven-digit dollar amount (annually), not an eight-figure price tag.
Top Landing Spots
Arizona showed interest in Bradley two winters ago, but a trade never came to fruition. Now, it’s possible that the University of South Carolina product takes his talents to the southwest, where he would reunite with general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo, among others.
The Astros’ outfield depth is noticeably thin right now. While Bradley likely wouldn’t start more than 100 games with the Astros, he would provide them with a clutch bat off the bat and arguably the greatest glove across the league. The Astros may be unwilling to pay a depth player like Bradley the money he deserves, but at the same time, defensive superstars don’t come around every day.
New York Mets
Bradley would be a huge acquisition for a Mets front office looking to make a splash. The biggest issue here is that the Mets are unwilling to spend money, which makes it quite hard to acquire a top free agent, especially one represented by superagent Scott Boras. With that said, if a deal were to come to fruition, Bradley would likely slot in as a starting outfielder and get an opportunity to re-gain his dominance at the plate in an exciting NL East division.
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