(Photo Credit: NY Daily News)
By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Jackie Bradley Jr was a hot ticket in the off season for many teams across the majors who were seeking an outfielder. Bradley’s obvious strength is his defense prowess for G.M.’s that put a premium on run prevention, but also still has some offensive upside. His career best season from the batter’s box was in 2016 when he hit .267 with 26 home runs and 87 RBI’s. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether that is his actual ceiling, but it still serves as a potential range of which he may hit.
The most notable trade offer which was reported this winter came from the reigning 2017 National League Pennant winners. The Dodgers were willing to trade Yasiel Puig straight up for Jackie Bradley. It was clearly a “sell high” situation for Los Angeles, who has been trying to dump their right fielder due to variety of on field blunders, and off field “theatrics.” The Red Sox had several issues from within their clubhouse last season, so it was a relief to many when Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski nixed the offer and elected to retain his center fielder. Certainly Puig “making out” with his bat, or as he put it, “making love” to his bat would make the circus like atmosphere in Boston nearly a legitimate one.
Considering all the potential which Boston has to not only win the American League East for the third year in a row, and possibly finally have a deep run in the month of October, their roster has multiple log jams with clusters of both veteran and young talent. There are a few notable prospects who are essentially major league ready, but for the moment the Red Sox have no place to put them.
Jackie Bradley happens to be one of the more expendable and tradeable assets which if the front office decides they need to clear payroll, and open a roster spot for one of their potentially high offensive prospects.
Here are a few players who could ultimately oust Bradley from his starting role, and possibly out of the organization altogether:
One of their top prospects the last few seasons, Travis was sidelined for all of 2016 due to a torn ACL. He returned last year and was very effective. The young corner infielder hit .295 during his two call ups from Pawtucket, but had no home runs to show for it in either stint.
However, Travis has currently swatted more home runs among any other player on the roster this spring in Fort Myers. Since arriving for camp he is hitting .270 with six home runs and 17 RBI’s. The 24 year old has long been projected to be a middle of the order power hitter, which he has demonstrated very effectively at every level in which he has ever played.
Travis is set to begin the year down in Pawtucket with the AAA club. It was announced this weekend that he will now see some time in left field since first base is essentially blocked between Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland.
Many Sox fans are not familiar with Barfield. His story is similar to that of Daniel Nava, who wasn’t ever expected to play in the majors. Both players bounced around from one independent league to another, with Barfield even having played in Mexico. He came out of nowhere in 2017 to lead the international league in the home run and RBI catagories with 28/76 respectively.
During 19 spring training games this year, the soon to be 30 year old only hit one home run and six RBI’s, but produced a respectable slash line of .250/.321/.458. Like Sam Travis, he too will begin the year in Pawtucket and likely be monitored very closely.
Considered to be a failed gamble, Castillo finally showed some offensive upside last year in AAA with 15 home runs, and hit .314 from the plate. He never received a call up due to the fact it would have pushed the Red Sox over the $197 luxury tax threshold, which they needed to prevent in order to avoid some stiff penalties, since it would have been the third year in a row they exceeded it. Had they not found a way to get below the threshold, J.D. Martinez would ultimately be playing for a different ball club in 2018.
Unfortunately for Castillo, he has a similar dilemma in 2018 due to the fact the Red Sox will incur serious pentalties for going over the $237M threshold. Boston currently sits at $232M, Castillo is due to make $11M this season, so in order to accommodate him on the big league roster, the Red Sox would have to free up Bradley’s contract at the very least, which is $6.5M.
Few people at this point still doubt Castillo’s ability to help his major league club succeed, but is ultimately the victim of terrible contracts signed mostly by former G.M. Ben Cherington. Hanley, Sandoval, and possibly even Porcello depending on who you ask.
Having been sidelined for much of the spring with an oblique injury, Chavis is more of a longer shot than the other three. Though his high offensive potential could ultimately land him in Boston by hook or by crook.
Still only 22 years old, the Georgia native smashed 31 home runs between AA Portland and Pawtucket, with 94 RBI’s. It was finally the breakout season we all knew the corner infielder was capable of, who also followed it up with a strong run in the Arizona Fall league.
Chavis will probably spend much of the first few months getting back into form since he missed virtually all of spring training, but could conceivably force his way onto the Red Sox roster should his bat justify it.
Bradley has bounced back and fourth from Fenway and AAA on and off since the beginning 2013. At this point, he is who he is. There is no mystery. Early projections had him essentially turning out similarly to how Mookie Betts eventually did, but at the end of the day Bradley is a career .239 hitter with decent pop.
Left field at Fenway park is one of the smallest there is of any MLB ballpark. Once a player learns how to play a line drive off of the green monster, it doesn’t really take an elite defender to be adequate. After all, Manny Ramirez manned that position for nearly eight years, of which two resulted in World Championships.
Should Bradley get dealt to another team, Andrew Benintendi would likely slide over to center field, which happens to be his natural position. Mookie Betts would remain in right field, at least for home games.
In a perfect world, Dave Dombrowski would ultimately try and find away to trade Hanley Ramirez in order to unload his $22M annual salary, which simultaneous could help prevent his vesting option for 2019 kicking in if he reaches 497 plate appearances. It would go a long way in helping Red Sox get back towards the $197M threshold.
But for the time being, Bradley is the more realistic trade candidate, and I expect his future with Boston is very short term.
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