Jackie Bradley Jr., 30, is the best remaining position player on the MLB free agent market.
The lifelong outfielder for the Boston Red Sox is one of the elite defenders in the sport, as he’s sixth among MLB center fielders in DRS since he became a full-time starter in 2014 (49). Meanwhile, he’s coming off an encouraging season at the plate where he posted an .814 OPS and 22 RBIs. The issue with Bradley is he has struggled to produce on a consistent basis with the exception of his 2020 and 2016 campaigns. He has pop in his bat. It’s a matter of him striking out less.
Here are the five best MLB free agent destinations for Jackie Bradley Jr
5. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are in a state of flux in the aftermath of being fleeced by the St. Louis Cardinals for Nolan Arenado. That said, there has been no signal of them rebuilding, especially with the front office supposedly keeping Trevor Story in a walk year. They could aim to be competitive for a year, an effort which Bradley would help.
He could be their opening day center fielder, playing in-between budding star Raimel Tapia and the easy breezy Charlie Blackmon. Bradley’s knack for getting behind fly balls near the warning track and general field awareness would come into play in the daunting venue that is Coors Field.
With Ian Desmond opting out of the 2021 MLB season, the Rockies could use another bat, especially one that plays the outfield. Bradley provides a power threat from the left side and a player to fill Desmond’s place.
Read More: Top 20 MLB free agents still available
4. Atlanta Braves
Yes, the Braves could roll with Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna Jr. as their starting outfield with Austin Riley occasionally getting an assignment in the grass next season. On the other hand, they could sign Bradley to start in center and improve their positional depth chart
While a veteran, Inciarte has struggled to get on base in recent years and would be better off as a fourth outfielder in the short term. Bradley would fill the void in manager Brian Snitker’s outfield rotation created by Adam Duvall departing for the rival Miami Marlins and add a defensive complement to Ozuna in left.
This is a ballclub that prides itself on its depth around the diamond. Having a player who swings for the fences, has considerable speed and is a vacuum at his position couldn’t hurt for a team chasing a World Series.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are in the early stages of a full-fledged rebuild, exemplified by them trading away Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove this offseason. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to field a respectable team: Bradley would be their opening day center fielder.
Bradley would be the outfield commander for a unit that has proven commodities in the corners (Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco). From a talent standpoint, the Pirates offense is a unit made up of productive veterans that are capable of forming a reliable attack. Bradley would add to that capability, and maybe a new coaching staff gets him to garner consistency at the plate?
At this stage of the offseason, Bradley shouldn’t require a long-term deal. The Pirates can commit to him in center for a couple of seasons and/or flip him for prospects if the team camps out at the bottom of the National League Central for the foreseeable future.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros made clear their intentions of competing in the American League by re-signing Michael Brantley to a two-year, $32 million deal. Continuing such an effort by signing Bradley makes a lot of sense.
George Springer is gone, and Josh Reddick remains on the open market: the Astros need an outfielder. Bradley’s defense bodes well for an Astros team that has been one of the premier fielding teams in MLB in recent memory. Plus, the American League West is a division that could be had.
Sure, the Oakland Athletics are the team to beat and the best all-around team in the division. That said, the Astros beat the A’s in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the A’s have lost some considerable players to free agency (Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks and Robbie Grossman). Bradley adds another respectable bat to the equation for Houston to remain in the playoff hunt.
1. Boston Red Sox
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side: the best spot for Jackie Bradley Jr. is where he has spent the entirety of his eight-year, MLB career.
The primary reason for a reunion with Bradley being in Boston’s best interest is them recently trading left fielder Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals and of course trading Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason. Retaining Bradley keeps at least one starting outfielder from their 2020 roster in the fold and also means that the Red Sox keep a player that has familiarity covering ground in the unique dimensions of Fenway Park in place.
Jackie Bradley Jr. helps Boston’s chances of staying afloat in the now stiff American League East. Bradley also played for manager Alex Cora, who has returned to the dugout for the Red Sox, from 2018-19.