Red Sox to appoint veteran outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for assignment later in the day, reports Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe.
Boston bought out Bradley in an offseason trade that sent Hunter Renfroe to Brewers. The trade brought the Red Sox a pair of prospects, infielders Alex Binelas and david hamilton, and saw the Sox take on the second year of Bradley’s two-year, $24 million contract in the process. Indeed, the Sox bought a pair of minor leaguers by bringing Bradley back into the fold and setting the tab on his deal. Binelas and Hamilton rank 22nd and 26th respectively in Boston’s prospect in Baseball America’s midseason rankings of their farm system.
There was definitely a reason the Sox rolled the dice on a Bradley reunion, even after a terrible 2021 show that saw him hit just .163 / .236 / .261 in 428 plate appearances as a homebrewer. He remained a world-class defender in the outfield, was chased by an average of .226 on balls in play that was 64 points below his career mark and made hard contact at above-average rates. (89.7 mph average bike output, 40.3% hard hit rate). Of course, Bradley also hit a career-worst 30.8% clip in Milwaukee, walked a career-worst 6.5% and appeared more consistently than ever.
Bradley did indeed not knock as badly like he did in Milwaukee, but that season’s .210/.257/.321 slash wasn’t enough rebound to carry Bradley on the roster all season. He’s been 42% worse than the league average with the bat, as a measure of wRC+, and his defensive ratings in center field are down a bit this season (although he’s played more consistently in right field in any event).
25 years Jarren Duran took over as the club’s regular centre-back, getting the bulk of playing time since mid-June. He hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, hitting a measly .232/.280/.384, but his wRC+ of 82 is still well ahead of Bradley’s, albeit with worse defensive numbers. It looks like the club will continue to give him playing time for now to see how he fare. Boston acquired Tommy Pham at the deadline, which likely played a role in pushing Bradley out of the corner outfield picture. Pham, Duran and Alex Verdugo will probably be the regular rotation of the outfield, with Jaylin Davis around the depth and Enrique Hernandez join the mix once he returns from the injured list.
As for what happens now, there’s no way the Sox can complete a trade since the deadline has passed. Their only options with Bradley are to put him on waiver or release him. Bradley’s defense will surely intrigue other teams, but it seems unlikely that any team will claim him given his poor offensive performance and contract situation. He earns a salary of $9.5 million this year, leaving just over $3 million to pay. There is also a $12 million mutual option for 2023 with an $8 million buyout. Any team making a protest would be liable for that money. Even the clubs most interested in Bradley will likely be waiting for him to agree to waivers, in which case he could elect free agency and be signed for the league minimum on a prorated basis with the Red Sox on the hook for the rest.
In the short term, the trade certainly looks like a dud for the Sox, with Renfroe having a strong season for the Brewers. He hit 19 home runs and reduced .246/.299/.508 for a wRC+ of 120. However, the long-term valuation of the deal will depend on the future development of Binelas and Hamilton.