Brewers outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will be exercising his $9.5MM player option to remain in Milwaukee for the 2022 season, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Bradley would have received a $6.5MM buyout had he chosen to decline the option and re-enter the free agent market. Bradley and the Brewers share a $12MM mutual option for the 2023 season that contains an $8MM buyout.
It was expected that Bradley would pick up his option in the wake of the worst hitting season of his nine-year MLB career. While Bradley’s numbers at the plate have always been somewhat inconsistent, his production utterly plummeted in 2021, with only a .163/.236/.261 slash line and six home runs over 428 plate appearances. Due to his late signing, Bradley missed the first month of Spring Training, yet that lack of preparation time hardly accounts for a career-worst walk rate (6.5%) and strikeout rate (30.8%).
The offensive numbers were poor enough that Bradley was still a negative-fWAR player (-0.8) even despite his still-excellent glovework. Bradley is a finalist for the NL center field Gold Glove, and looking to earn the award for the second time, after capturing AL honors with the Red Sox in 2018. For a medium-market team like the Brewers, $9.5MM is a hefty price for a defense-only player, even a stellar fielder like Bradley. It doesn’t help that the Brew Crew are also paying $18MM to Lorenzo Cain next season, another excellent defender whose bat has fallen off (though not to the extent of Bradley’s struggles).
If Milwaukee looked to carve out payroll space by trading one of the two, Bradley is probably the easier sell, if a team is willing to roll the dice on a rebound at the plate and is intrigued by the extra year of control if Bradley’s hitting does rebound. A significant chunk of Bradley’s contract is deferred, so in terms of pure dollars, the Brewers have only paid Bradley $3MM thus far, though the future deferrals could complicate any trade possibilities.