TODAY: The Royals announced that Bradley has been released.
JUNE 12: The Royals announced Monday that they’ve designated veteran outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for assignment. His spot on the roster will go to outfielder Dairon Blanco, whose selection to the big league roster is now official.
Bradley, the longtime Red Sox center fielder, signed a minor league deal with the Royals in the offseason and joined Matt Duffy and the since-released Franmil Reyes as veteran non-roster invitees who made the club out of spring training. Bradley wasn’t able to correct the offensive nosedive that began in 2021, however, hitting just .133/.188/.210 in 113 trips to the plate with Kansas City.
Even when he was hitting for a low average with the Red Sox late last decade, Bradley walked enough to maintain respectable on-base percentages and hit for some power to help prop up his overall production. That’s all evaporated in recent years, however. Bradley had a strong .283/.364/.450 showing with the Red Sox during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but he’s since turned in 911 plate appearances with a dreadful .176/.238/.275 batting line, a below-average 6.2% walk rate and minimal extra-base pop (42 doubles, four triples, 11 homers, .099 ISO).
The Royals’ outfield has been the least-productive unit in MLB this year. Kansas City’s outfielders have combined for a disastrous .200/.268/.328 batting line, with Bradley’s struggles factoring into the group’s MLB-worst wRC+ (62). Bradley alone is hardly to blame, as the Royals have received below-average production from MJ Melendez, Kyle Isbel, Drew Waters and Nate Eaton. The previously mentioned Reyes and fellow veteran Hunter Dozier also had brief, unproductive appearances in the outfield prior to being released. Edward Olivares is the only player on Kansas City’s roster who’s delivered even average offense while playing the outfield.
Kansas City will have a week to trade Bradley, pass him through outright waivers or release him. He has the service time to reject an outright assignment even if he clears waivers, and it’s hard to imagine a team trading for him. One way or another, a return to the free-agent market seems likely in the near future.