This off-season the Milwaukee Brewers have been “in the mix” on a handful of stars across the league. Some have been within the realm of feasibility, while others have been more surprising.
Names that have been connected to the Brew Crew have included players like OF Marcell Ozuna and 3B Justin Turner. Most recently, OF Jackie Bradley Jr was rumored to be David Stearns’ next potential target.
While this certainly raises some question as to what this may mean for Avisail Garcia or Lorenzo Cain, it is likely that Bradley Jr will not be joining the Brewers this season unless he is guaranteed a starting job in the outfield.
For now, the addition of Bradley Jr is all hypothetical, so lets take some time to look over the pros and cons of him as a player.
Even with an outfield as well-stocked as the Brewers have, there would be plenty of pros in adding a player like Jackie Bradley Jr.
As a former Gold Glover in 2018, Bradley Jr’s defensive ability is still among the league’s best according to Statcast as he ranked in the 99th percentile in outs above average and was in the 78th percentile in outfielder jump during the 2020 season. According to FanGraphs, as a center fielder, he recorded 16 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2014, 14 in 2016, and 15 in 2017. For comparison’s sake Lorenzo Cain recorded a 22 DRS in his Gold Glove 2019 season.
If the Brewers were able to retain Cain and Avsail Garcia while adding Bradley Jr, they would in theory be well set up to deploy a very strong outfield group across the duration of the 162-game season. This could be very beneficial, given Cain will be playing in his age 35 season, Garcia battled many nagging injuries last season, and Christian Yelich has a slight history of back issues of his own.
From an offensive standpoint, Bradley Jr is not going to blow you away with a eye-popping slash line. Historically he has been a lower batting average type player (.239 career batting average), but he does possess a decent batter’s eye and is a near league average hitter in terms of making contact and not striking out.
As a left-handed hitter who has been a life long member of the Boston Red Sox where right field is a shallow 302 feet, the most home runs he has hit in a season is 26. According to Baseball Reference, his 162-game average home run total is 18, which when compared to Cain (12) would be an upgrade in the power department though slightly less than Garcia (19).
There is no doubting Jackie Bradley Jr’s talent, but a potential signing for the Brewers would also come with its cons.
As fine a player as Bradley Jr is, his ceiling is likely lower than Cain or Garcia’s. Without the ability to hit for a higher average than the two and with the inconsistency in power numbers over the years, betting on solid contributions from Cain or Garcia would be the safer bet from an offensive standpoint.
As a long time starter for the Red Sox and entering his age 31 season, Bradley Jr likely feels that he should be a starter and is going to command that type of money. With having a lower ceiling than our current outfielders, negotiations could get complicated and the Brewers could end up paying near $10MM for the statistical equivalent of a fourth outfielder when compared to their current outfield core.
For me, the question then becomes “does this move make sense from a financial and roster building perspective?” While it is great that the Brewers seem financially comfortable to be in a position to spend more money prior to the season beginning, whether or not that money should go to Bradley Jr or not is something Stearns and company is going to have to answer.
For now the Brewers remain “in the mix” on Jackie Bradley Jr. He is a very interesting player to consider adding to our roster and whether or not you think the pros out way the cons or vice versa seems to be a pretty debatable topic.