In unsurprising news, the Milwaukee Brewers are still looking at upgrades on the free agent market. In the surprising turn of events, they’re interested in a star centerfielder in Jackie Bradley Jr.
With the highly paid Lorenzo Cain currently on the roster, signing Bradley wouldn’t appear to make much sense on the surface. Bradley is 31 years old and is looking for a long-term contract, similar to what Cain received prior to the 2018 season.
So why the interest?
Defensively, Bradley is strong out in center field, while offensively Bradley had a good 2020 season, but underwhelmed in the previous three seasons. In each of the past four full seasons, Bradley has had 13 or more home runs, including a 26 homer campaign in 2016. He’s a very good player and is a few years younger than Cain.
The Milwaukee Brewers rumored interest in Jackie Bradley, Jr would signal a possible shakeup in the outfield.
If the Brewers were to sign Bradley, where would he play? He’s a centerfielder, but the Brewers have one already in Cain. Would Bradley really sign on to be a backup outfielder? Unlikely.
If this happens, the Brewers would almost have to trade Lorenzo Cain. It would hurt emotionally, it certainly would, but it’d be necessary if this signing happens. Cain struggled in 2019 then opted out in 2020 before we got to see if he could really have a bounce-back season. Cain’s last good full year was in 2018 and he’s now 35. It’s fair to have some concern that Cain might not reach his 2018 level of production again.
Given Cain’s $17MM salary in 2021 and $18MM salary for 2022, the Brewers might not want to pay that full salary if they don’t believe Cain can reach his 2018 production level again.
By replacing Cain with Bradley, the Brewers get younger in the outfield and add someone who might have some more good years ahead of him. As a lefty hitter, playing in Milwaukee might boost his offensive numbers and his defense is going to play just as well.
Bradley made some sense as a trade target at the deadline last season.
Bradley’s offensive ceiling may not be as high as some might like and it may not be as high as Cain’s at his peak, but if the Brewers believe Cain has fallen off and at 35 his production is going to get worse and worse, it might be best to move on and get something of value before he completely falls off and the rest of the league knows it.
This is a very interesting hypothetical if they were to sign him. It might be easier to stick with Cain and just roll with what they have, but there’s a chance the best move for results in 2021 is to switch Cain with Bradley.
Bradley’s a consistently healthy player. There’s a lot to like about him, but with the current roster construction, there would need to be a big shakeup to this outfield to make room for him.