Jackie Bradley Jr. had something of a resurgence in 2015, and it's made him a topic of conversation at the GM Meetings. Specifically, the Cubs and World Series champion Royals are interested in acquiring the Red Sox outfielder to fill the recently opened voids in their own outfields, with the Cubs possibly losing Dexter Fowler to free agency and the Royals likely on their way to seeing Alex Gordon sign elsewhere.
The Red Sox outfield is still a bit of a question mark, even if it's one with promise. Part of those questions belong to Bradley, who had a successful 2015 thanks to a torrid stretch that saw him hit at a Troutian pace for a month. Combined with his stellar defense in center, that made Bradley one of baseball's best players from August through the start of September.
That .424/.480/.880 month was sandwiched in between your standard Bradley performances in the majors, though, where he struck out often and was a drag on the lineup: in his final 25 games, the ones following his absurd run, Bradley hit all of .138/.247/.263 while striking out 28 percent of the time. A .173 batting average on balls in play was partially to blame, but that's not all luck considering Bradley's history of approach and contact issues, and his previous success was buoyed by a .527 BABIP, anyway.
The answer to who he is likely lies somewhere in the middle, with Bradley hitting well when he's on and horribly when he's not: that's how plenty of non-star players operate. You don't hit .300 by hitting .300 all season long -- you hit .200 sometimes, .400 other times, and end up in the middle. What Bradley has that separates him from many of those non-stars, though, is his defense, and the potential that his bat will level out a bit more and allow him to be average or better at the plate. That version of Bradley would be a valuable one, and inexpensive for another five years, too. That's the one the Cubs and Royals -- and Red Sox -- are hoping for.
The thing to remember, though, is that it's only "likely" somewhere in the middle: the very real chance exists that Bradley turned things around for a month, and pitchers then immediately shut him down by adjusting to him once more. Maybe Bradley adjusts back, or maybe he doesn't -- given his history, it's hard to be strongly optimistic, even if you know the talent is there.
Given all that, you can't blame the Sox if they decide to let Bradley become someone else's question mark, especially since they have the money to acquire a more stable presence. Like, say, Gordon, and then sign a bench outfielder like Chris Young as Rusney Castillo insurance. At the same time, maybe Bradley is the one they want to give another chance to, but with Rob Bradford reporting that the sense is the Red Sox seem to be "selling high" on Bradley, maybe not.
What would the Sox get back for Bradley? That's hard to say, but it's probably not as much as you might want. The Twins shipped Aaron Hicks -- similar to Bradley in many ways, both in their up-and-down nature, former prospect status, and defense as virtue -- to the Yankees for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy on Wednesday. Murphy is probably good enough to be a starting catcher, and a decent one at that, so that's for more than it sounds like. But he's unproven in that role, and that's kind of the thing: Hicks, and Bradley, too, are unproven in their own, and that will limit the return.
It might also eliminate a question from Boston's 2016 lineup, though, and considering they are not only banking on Bradley and Castillo to perform but also for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to rebound, simply managing to answer one of those questions might be worth a move.