Spring training games have been going on for nearly a week, and pitchers and catchers have been down at camp for multiple weeks now, but a few big free agents remained unsigned. Among them was former Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. It had seemed the door was shut on him coming back to Boston, but given the potential need here for a center fielder, there was still some hope they’d work something out. That is no longer a hope, as he has a new home. Late last night/early this morning, it was reported that Bradley would be heading to Milwaukee on a two-year deal worth $24 million with an opt out after the first year.
Source: Jackie Bradley Jr. is heading to the Milwaukee Brewers. Two-year, $24 million deal with a player option after the first year.— Julian McWilliams (@byJulianMack) March 4, 2021
The chances of Bradley coming back to Boston always seemed thin as the Red Sox don’t seem particularly keen on the idea of surpassing the luxury tax threshold at this point, something they would have to do to sign Bradley. Without him, though, it is worth mentioning the Red Sox are going to have something to prove, to put it nicely, in the outfield. Right now the only “true” outfielders on the roster are Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe, though Enrique Hernández and Marwin Gonzalez can and likely will play out there some too. The defense will be downgraded — that’s inevitable when losing Bradley — but the offense out there also has some real questions beyond Verdugo. There’s a way to mix and match with this group to make it work, but Bradley would have made the picture much clearer.
As for the Brewers, they now have a bevy of outfielders from which to choose. Bradley now makes four potentially starting-caliber outfielders on their roster along with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisaíl García. Yelich will play mostly everyday, of course, but I would expect Bradley to be in something of a rotation with the other three, barring injury of course. That said, he will get his chances and we know that Bradley can get hot at the plate. Milwaukee is a good hitter’s park, too, that could extend some of those hot streaks.
There’s more than just this paragraph to be said of Bradley’s legacy in Boston, and hopefully we’ll find a time to do something more substantial looking back at the career of the team’s long-time center fielder, but I would think most will look back at the time fondly. Obviously there were some frustrating stretches at the plate, which we all know about. But he was also the best defensive center fielder many of us have ever seen play for the Red Sox, routinely making plays that just came out of nowhere. He was also a starter for the most successful run in team history when they won three straight division titles, as well as the ALCS MVP for the best Red Sox team most of us will ever see. So yes, there were some shortcomings at the plate, but the good far outweighed the bad.