The Royals and Cubs inquired about a trade for Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at last week's Winter Meetings, but were told he was unavailable according to a report from Nick Cafardo.
Bradley has been a top trade candidate for a few years now. First as a top prospect in Boston's system, then as an apparent offensive flop with no space in a crowded outfield, and now again as a rejuvenated player in the wake of his late surge in 2015. But if the Red Sox have any intention to move him, they're clearly not giving any indication.
And for now, that makes sense. Yes, Bradley's value is currently higher than it's been in a good long while. Said value is never going to fall below a certain point thanks to his phenomenal glove, but after combining that with a .832 OPS in 255 plate appearances in 2015, the idea that Bradley could actually be a star has regained some legitimacy. The Red Sox would be wise to trade him if anyone was going to offer them a package worthy of a 25-year-old All-Star type player who won't hit free agency until 2021, but nobody is going to do that after just 255 plate appearances.
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The question becomes, then, what sort of deal the Red Sox would accept. And right now I don't think they're inclined to offer anything in the vicinity of an average offer for him. They've done a lot of work this offseason in adding David Price and completely retooling their bullpen, but they're still a team with many question marks that could break either way. Oddly enough, Bradley isn't really one of those. Or at least not the troublesome sort. Hanley Ramirez could win the silver slugger or he could be a disaster. Jackie Bradley Jr. could look like Jason Heyward, yes. But even if he doesn't--even if the bat falls off--Jackie Bradley Jr. will still be an exceptional defensive center fielder. The sort of player you can stick at the bottom of the lineup and shrug off the lack of hits because of how many he takes away from the other team.
In another offseason, where the Red Sox hadn't had so many other holes to fill, they may have taken the time to look at some of the big outfield free agents with an eye to moving one of their more uncertain players in Bradley or Castillo to open a spot. But this is not the year for that. The payroll is stretched awfully far already, and if Bradley is not a sure thing, he's one of the best, safest risks the Red Sox are taking this year. If he doesn't replicate his 2015 success, his value will drop some, but not nearly so much as it will rise if he can repeat. And if he does, that trade value won't even matter anymore, because the Sox will be looking to keep him in Fenway for as long as possible.