We know at this point that a David Price trade could happen. It always seemed like the most likely big-money saving move — with the other possibilities being a Mookie Betts deal or a Nathan Eovaldi deal — but it’s not the only veteran Red Sox player that could be on his way out the door. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been a speculative trade candidate for a long time now, and even after the team tendered him a contract it’s been clear they are planning on another team paying the salary he’ll eventually earn in arbitration. In fact, a report came out just a few days ago from Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe indicating they had been talking to the Mets about a deal before New York acquired Jake Marisnick from the Astros.
Presumably the Mets are now out of this market. There have been reports that they’d trade one of their other outfielders to make room for the Pirates Starling Marte, but it’s hard to believe they’d do that for Bradley. Even with the Mets out, though, Chaim Bloom and company presumably still want to deal their center fielder. So, who else is left on the market? Let’s take a quick tour of the league and find some teams who could at least theoretically show interest. Remember that Bradley is set to hit free agency after the coming season, so a rebuilding team wouldn’t make much sense.
Trades within a division are always tougher, but the Blue Jays have a hole in the outfield and have historically been reticent to spend on the free agent market. Bradley would shift Randal Grichuk to a corner and provide more defense behind a pitching staff that needs some help.
The White Sox have surprisingly been fairly aggressive this offseason and every indication is that they are not done. They did just acquire Nomar Mazara, but they could be looking to upgrade over Adam Engel in center field. They’d likely need to see something they feel they can unlock in Bradley’s bat to be motivated to make this move.
The Rangers were the team to trade Mazara, but they aren’t exactly rebuilding. They’ve been attached to some major free agents and with a new stadium opening in 2020 they likely want to win sooner than later. Joey Gallo is their center fielder right now, but a Bradley trade would allow him to fill the opening left by Mazara in right field.
Arizona has been the team most connected to Bradley other than the Mets. They are in a tough division, but after hanging around for much of 2019 there’s no reason not to keep pushing. Bradley would move Ketel Marte back to the infield and likely get Jake Lamb out of their everyday lineup.
Chicago is a weird team this winter as they are also trying to cut payroll and may even deal Kris Bryant and/or Willson Contreras in that effort. After they do that, though, they could reallocate that money to shorter deals. Bradley would qualify there and potentially move Ian Happ back onto the dirt.
The Giants aren’t exactly contenders here, but they also don’t appear to be a team that wants to tear it all down. Center field is their biggest hole right now and Bradley’s defense would look particularly good in a big outfield like that.
The Cardinals are likely to lose Marcell Ozuna in free agency and need an outfielder to fill that hole. Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman are solid enough, but neither are ideal fits as everyday players and having both in the lineup isn’t great. If nothing else, Bradley gives them another solid-but-not-great outfielder to throw into the mix.
Okay, so there’s a decent list of teams that could at least talk themselves into a Bradley trade, but what would the Red Sox get. Remember, the outfielder is projected to make $11 million in the coming season. That’s not a bad deal for the league-average-ish player Bradley is, but it’s also not some tremendously team-friendly contract other clubs will trip over themselves to acquire. On the other hand, there really aren’t a whole lot of viable center field options on the free agent market, a fact that plays in the Red Sox favor.
All of that said, I just don’t see a big return coming back. The Red Sox may be able to get a decent reliever, but probably not someone that would land in their top three. If they decided to trade for prospects, don’t expect huge value. Bradley should be worth a little more than Marisnick, who got two non-prospects in return. (Neither player was listed on FanGraphs’ Mets list, which ranks all players deemed to have 35+ Future Value or more.) I wouldn’t expect much more than that, perhaps getting one guy 35+ or even 40 Future Value if the market gets more aggressive than we think. Ultimately, I do expect a trade to come through, and I expect it to be more about shedding the salary than adding actual player value to the franchise. That said, there are at least plenty of teams who could be interested.