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The Flyby - What to do with Jackie Bradley Jr.

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Everyone agrees, Bradley is playing poorly. By the same coin, it’s not time to give up on him.

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox
Oh, Jackie.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

This past Friday, I asked you to figure out Jackie Bradley Jr, and his role on the team. The responses spoke loud and clear.


Ride the Hot Hands - Good_Better_Betts

What they said: JBJ doesn’t fit anywhere right now. J.D. Martinez (gasp) needs to start in the outfield to get both Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland in the lineup. The key words to their argument are “right now”. They provide stats showing that JBJ, Hanley, and Moreland are all pretty streaky and subject to cold spells. Do not trade JBJ. Especially right now, with his value at an all-time low.

My main thought with this FanPost is that I concur. Martinez probably should be starting in the outfield, for as mediocre as his defense is. Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland are both hitting extremely well, and should be given every opportunity to play. Jackie Bradley Jr. is objectively struggling. None of these statements are really all that big of a reach.

I mostly want to hammer on the idea that you don’t trade Jackie Bradley Jr. right now, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, is that his value is, as Good_Better_Betts says, at an all-time low. It’s possible someone would still offer something of value, but the only reason you would cut bait now is if you believed this is who JBJ is moving forward, and I do not find myself believing that given his streaky tendencies.

Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox
Andrew Benintendi isn’t a terrific defensive LF, but he’s a worse defensive CF.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There’s also our lack of serviceable outfield depth in the minor leagues. If you let go of Bradley, your starting OF shifts to J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi (who is less than stellar in CF), and Mookie Betts. Your fourth outfielder is probably Brock Holt. In the minor leagues, you have only Rusney Castillo hitting well enough to really justify an argument, one way or another (and even he isn’t even really hitting well, beyond his batting average, which doesn’t mean a whole lot). I’ll have more on Rusney later.

Over the off-season, there were rumors of swaps involving Bradley. One rumor involved Edwin Encarnacion, The Dodgers approached the Sox about a Bradley for Yasiel Puig swap. The Royals, White Sox, and Giants all inquired. There was definitely interest then, and to an extent, I’m sure there’s still interest now in the hopes of getting a great buy-low piece for a low to mid-range prospect. This doesn’t really appeal to the Red Sox, I’d imagine, who have postseason aspirations.

Bradley should 100% stay in a Red Sox uniform. To quote Good_Better_Betts, I’d apply the operative “for now” tagline. This is subject to change, but at present, a trade involving Bradley just wouldn’t make a ton of sense when you don’t need to get rid of him and his value is so low.


JBJ and Why He Should Stay... on the Bench - Ricochet!

What they said: Bradley has been abysmal in 2018, but has also been good in the past. He was an All-Star in 2016, after all. Ricochet! doesn’t want us to give up so easily, but rather hold onto JBJ for a while longer. The extent to which Bradley has struggled at the plate is uncharacteristic. Additionally, he’s been slumping defensively. Presently, he has little value as a player, so there’s no point in moving him when he can get hot in a flash.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 2016 feels so far away. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a season and a quarter since he was finishing up an excellent year in centerfield. Looking at his overall numbers from the year, it’s easy to wonder what exactly changed, and how it would be possible to get back to previous form.

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig might be a fun guy to watch, but I’d steer clear at trading Bradley for him, and that’s exactly what the Sox did this past off-season.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

In 2016, Bradley hit .267/.349/.486, which sounds doable at first look. Those numbers are actually eerily similar to Yasiel Puig’s 2017, and not to take anything away from Puig, but those numbers aren’t exactly world beating (fun fact: Technically, he out-hit Mookie Betts last year, which kind of showcases just how mediocre Betts’ 2017 was).

What changed?

First off, Bradley keeps hitting it on the ground far too often. Since breaking into the league in 2013, he’s only had a ground ball rate above 50% once and that was in the small sample size of 37 games in - you guessed it - 2013. To make matters worse, he’s pulling the ball a ton as well, getting well into “if you shift, you are almost guaranteed to get him out” territory. Bradley is a left handed batter. When he pulls the ball, it goes down the first base line, towards right field. Balls hit on the right side of the infield, are typically more easily defended than balls hit on the left side, due to the lack of distance required on all throws.

A brief look at spray charts shows that while Bradley is certainly getting just a touch unlucky with the placement of his batted balls this year, he was getting a touch (or more) lucky with his placement in 2016.

Jackie Bradley Jr. in 2016 (left) and 2018 (right).
Fangraphs Spray Charts

Ultimately, Bradley is getting enough hard contact (and avoiding soft contact) that I believe his luck is due to swing around, even if he continues to leave the ball on the ground, and he continues to pull the ball, but also believe that his 2016 is well in the past.

The best way for him to improve would be to find a way to put the ball on the left side, or at least put it in the air more if he’s going to keep pulling the ball. Given his hitter profile thus far in his career, I do not believe that to be likely.

I’d project something along the lines of .241/.335/.398 at season’s end, and hopefully better defensive numbers to go with it. Nothing spectacular, but much more valuable than the current output.


Here are your Options JBJ - Nick Armstrong

What they said: It is an open letter to JBJ, wherein dissatisfaction is expressed with his current production. There are a few options listed. Firstly, the possibility of a trade of Vazquez and JBJ for something along the lines of J.T. Realmuto. Secondly, being benched, and used for situational hitting/running/fielding. Mostly the latter two. Thirdly, a straight up DFA, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Armstrong believes JBJ will be done in Boston soon, and also believes it would be best to move on besides. Attached poll had 14 votes to trade JBJ, 12 for benching, and 1 for DFA.

We already spoke about not trading Bradley, so obviously the next step is to start talking about trading Bradley. Personally, I do not feel it is at all realistic to think that Christian Vazquez (who I don’t think we should trade anyways) and Bradley can be centerpieces in a J.T. Realmuto trade, but let’s explore the idea for a moment.

Realmuto is one of the lone valuable pieces left on a decimated Marlins team that boasts such All-Stars as Brian Anderson and Caleb Smith. You might not know who either is, but both are presently above average players for a Marlins squad that has lost all its incredible talent, from Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, to Christian Yelich, and even Marlins Man.

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
It would be a lot of fun to have J.T Realmuto! It would also be beyond expensive, and is not at all realistic.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Realmuto will hit free agency after the conclusion of the 2020 season, and is due for a big pay raise this off-season. A pay day that will likely surpass even Vazquez’s most expensive year in his recent extension. And Realmuto deserves every penny. Since 2016, of the 20 catchers to have 800 or more plate appearances, Realmuto ranks 3rd in fWAR, 6th in wRC+, and 1st in BsR (Fangraphs all encompassing baserunning stat). Offensively, he has the much needed punch that the catcher slot could use at present.

So what would Realmuto cost? Much more than Bradley and Vazquez. According to a report from Fish Stripes (the Marlins SBN blog), the Marlins wanted Kyle Tucker from the Astros, and also reportedly wanted “quality over quantity”. In the Red Sox farm system, at present, there is no singular prospect who matches up with Kyle Tucker (who ranks 16th on mlb.com’s list of top 100 prospects). Further complicating matters are the injury to Jason Groome and the suspension of Michael Chavis, the two best prospects in the Sox system. The third best, Tanner Houck, doesn’t even crack the top 100, indicating that the Sox are probably out of the running before it even begins.

A much more realistic target would be Jonathan Lucroy from the Athletics, but that might be more of a topic for July than today.


Rusney Castillo - sbyrnicus!

What they said: Rusney Castillo should get another chance. Jackie is playing terribly. Castillo is a good defender, and fast runner, like JBJ. What’s the worst that can happen? DFA him if he sucks.

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins
No, Rusney is probably never playing for the Red Sox again. Yeah, that’s fine.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

I’ll keep my response brief (because surprise, I plan on writing about Rusney as part of my own response later this week), but the worst that can happen regarding Rusney Castillo, is that once added to the roster, his salary counts against the luxury tax again. On opening day, according to Cots Baseball Contracts, the Red Sox blew by the 197 million dollar tax threshold, and are presently on the hook for just over 233 million. By adding Rusney Castillo to the roster, a further 10.3 million dollars would be added to the luxury tax, putting the total at 243 million, which is 46 million dollars above the threshold.

At that point, the Red Sox would not only have to pay a 62.5% tax (which is insane), but they would also move back in the draft, with their first round pick moving back 10 slots. With a farm system in nearly dire need of improvement, losing slots in the draft - and thus limiting the financial resources the club can offer draftees - would be awful painful for what would likely be, in the best-case scenario, a minor upgrade.

That’s all for this week!