Red Sox' decisions on Ryan Sweeney and Jackie Bradley Jr. connected

USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox will have to make a decision on Ryan Sweeney sometime in the next 24 hours. What does that have to do with Jackie Bradley Jr.?

The Red Sox will have to make a decision on Ryan Sweeney by March 27. While a year ago he was a lock for a roster spot, possibly set to platoon with Cody Ross (injuries quickly made it so the Sox never really had to make that decision), Sweeney has fallen far since then. A strong start to 2012 was abruptly halted by a concussion, and the Sweeney that returned was simply not the same player. He would make sporadic appearances in a depleted Boston lineup before finally removing himself by punching a door and breaking his hand.

Classic 2012 Red Sox, frankly.

Still, if Sweeney is hardly a lock, there's a decent chance he'll be breaking camp with the Red Sox this year. They're in need, after all, of a backup for Fenway's large right field. While Daniel Nava seems to have a pretty firm hold on one bench spot, he really is better suited for the cozy confines in left. Without Ryan Sweeney, the Sox really don't have anyone to fill the role should Shane Victorino or Jacoby Ellsbury go down.

Unless, of course, they bring up Jackie Bradley Jr. You would think if he broke camp with the team, it'd be another story entirely. But that's only the case if they plan to keep him up, rather than waiting for David Ortiz to return, then sending him to the minors to keep his service clock where it needs to be.

If, on the other hand, they want to get that extra year of team control, well, they're going to need that backup outfielder at some point. Maybe they risk Bryce Brentz--he has the arm for it, if not exactly the range (there's a joke in there somewhere)--but chances are the Sox would feel more comfortable having a backup who can actually play all three outfield positions if they weren't planning to have an outfield of three center fielders.

Opinions are divided over whether or not the Red Sox should keep Bradley up for the start of the season, to be certain. But it's really hard to paint a picture where two weeks of any player is worth a year of that same player at their peak. Even those fans who want Bradley to play on April 1st should be hoping that, once Ortiz makes his return, Bradley heads back to the minors for long enough to secure his services for 2019. And the best indication that the Sox are planning to keep that year of control might well be having Ryan Sweeney stick around.

So here's hoping that Ryan Sweeney is still with the team in 24 hours' time. If not because Sweeney himself is a big addition, then at least because of what it means for Jackie Bradley Jr.'s future in Boston.

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