While the bulk of the Cincinnati Reds Hot Stove talk has centered around their efforts to get the pitching - and rightfully so - there’s currently a Billy Hamilton sized hole on the outfield ledger of their roster, too. One could also certainly argue that even while they had Hamilton around there was a rather large outfield void, too, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
So far, the lone real rumor that’s connected the Reds to a future CF has revolved around free agent A.J. Pollock, a player who is seeking a contract in a similar vein to the $80 million deal signed by Lorenzo Cain just last season. While the Reds have promised to ramp up their payroll into record territory for 2019, odds are they’re going to have to spend like crazy to land any top-tier pitcher, meaning perhaps it isn’t the best use of their still-limited resources to splurge that kind of cash on an injury-prone, over-30 outfielder, however.
With that in mind, it’s quite the convenient time to hear that the Boston Red Sox might be willing to pare down their World Series winning roster in an attempt to improve other areas of their team, with CF Jackie Bradley Jr. apparently a player they might be willing to move, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
The Boston #Redsox, trying to clear salary space for bullpen help, are openly listening to offers on Rick Porcello, and rivals insist also are willing to talk about Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2018
Bradley will turn 29 in April and has a pair of years of team control remaining, with his second turn through arbitration this winter expected to land him a 2019 salary of $7.9 million, per MLB Trade Rumors. His 2018 offensive stats were far from overwhelming, as he hit just .234/.314/.403 with 13 dingers in 535 PA, but his plus defense in the outfield still graded his overall 2018 work worth 2.1 bWAR and 2.8 fWAR. This, though, is on the heels of a few excellent seasons in recent memory, as he hit a combined .262/.345/.489 in 891 PA between 2015 and 2016, good for 7.7 total bWAR despite spending the first half of 2015 back in AAA.
A left-handed hitter, Bradley Jr. has long feasted on RHP, posting a .902 OPS with 23 HR against them in 454 PA in his breakout 2016 season and a solid enough .251/.332/.437 line against them in 404 PA last year to help buoy his otherwise putrid numbers against LHP. His defense, though, has consistently graded out among the best in all baseball in the outfield, as he has rated as the 5th best outfield defender by DEF since the start of the 2016 season - just two spots behind Hamilton, for reference. If you’re more of an eye-test truster of defense than you are of the oft-wonky metrics, Bradley Jr. has rated as tied for the best outfield defender by FSR (Fan Scouting Report) in that same time frame.
In other words, he’d be just about the best possible defensive replacement for Billy Hamilton the Reds could find, and while he’d be pricier than Hamilton - and would require a trade package to acquire - he would also provide the kind of offensive upside the Reds haven’t seen in CF since the days of Shin-Soo Choo. Even if Bradley Jr. only managed to replicate the 91 OPS+ he has posted over the last two seasons combined, that would still serve as a massive offensive upgrade over the 67 OPS+ gleaned from Hamilton in that span, and there’s certainly a realistic chance the cozy confines of GABP as a home park for Bradley Jr. could even provide the perfect platform for a power resurgence.
Boston GM Dave Dombrowski is certainly looking to help re-stock a farm system that once rated as one of the best in the game but has since been severely depleted by the acquisitions of Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornburg, and Addison Reed, among others. That depletion along with injuries and underperformance from some of their recent top draftees has their farm system ranked as the second worst in all MLB in at least one way by FanGraphs, and that along with skyrocketing payroll and a pending mega-extension possible for star Mookie Betts has Dombrowski faced with the need to cash-in on a few of his regulars who have their team control dwindling, of whom Bradley Jr. is certainly one.
Speaking of which, you Reds fans might remember Dombrowski as the former GM of the Detroit Tigers, the one who four years to the day helped the Reds out tremendously with this deal.
Getting Bradley Jr. wouldn’t be easy, but he would certainly serve as a solid upgrade in CF on a short enough deal to not block the progress of star prospect Taylor Trammell.