Despite some recent speculation that the Red Sox could non-tender Jackie Bradley Jr. prior to tonight’s 8pm ET deadline, the organization will tender him a contract for the 2020 season, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link).
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal suggested last night that a non-tender of Bradley could be possible (subscription required), pointing out that the $11MM that MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Bradley to earn in his final season of club control may be steeper than the team prefers. But Bradley’s strong defensive track record, extra-base pop and speed are seemingly enough that the Boston organization feels he’ll at least be valued at that rate elsewhere. The dearth of useful center fielders in free agency certainly makes that likely.
It stands to reason that Bradley is still a candidate to change hands between now and Opening Day 2020. Boston’s payroll is already in the $230MM neighborhood (including arbitration projections and pre-arbitration salaries to round out the roster), and there are notable holes to address on the roster. Moving Bradley would be the second of what could be several moves designed to scale back on the 2020 payroll; the Red Sox also traded catcher Sandy Leon to the Indians earlier this morning, shedding a projected $2.8MM salary in the process.
The 29-year-old Bradley hit .225/.317/.421 with 21 long balls, 28 doubles and three triples in 567 plate appearances with the Sox this past season. However, he hasn’t had an above-average year at the plate (by measure of OPS+ or wRC+) since his All-Star 2016 season, and his typically brilliant defensive ratings slid in 2019 as well. Bradley drew ratings of -1 Defensive Runs Saved and a -1.2 Ultimate Zone Rating, although Statcast’s Outs Above Average still pegged him as a quality defender (+6). The 2018 Gold Glover has long been considered to be one of the game’s better defensive outfielders.
Looking around the league, several teams (Cubs, Mets, D-backs, Braves, Phillies, Reds, White Sox) could be in the market for a short-term addition in center field. The D-backs, in particular, seem like a plausible fit given the presence of former Boston execs Mike Hazen, Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter in the front office and given the team’s history of acquiring former Red Sox players (Clay Buchholz, Blake Swihart, Robby Scott, Deven Marrero, Henry Owens). Arizona “would have interest” in acquiring Bradley, Rosenthal wrote last night, which would allow them to play Ketel Marte at second base rather than in center field.