The Brewers just signed centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr to a deal. In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, what the (heck) is going on out here?
So what exactly is going on out here?
The Brewers have created a logjam of talent in the outfield with the signing of Jackie Bradley Jr without a DH to fill at-bats.
Once again, the Brewers will enter a season with their four highest paid players all being outfielders. The problem is, there are only three starting spots in any given lineup, so why pay four players that much money, especially considering all four of them will earn north of $10MM this season?
That’s a very expensive outfield.
But it’s also an extremely talented outfield.
David Stearns loves having depth, and the Brewers have the Marianas Trench of outfield depth now.
By getting Bradley Jr, the Brewers will have a starting caliber player able to jump in in case of injury to either Yelich, Cain, or Garcia instead of a backup caliber player in Derek Fisher or Billy McKinney. As a side note, this move likely means curtains for Fisher and McKinney’s chances of making the big league roster.
With Lorenzo Cain still trying to get his legs underneath him after opting out last year, he hasn’t played in a spring training game yet and is likely to take it slow. At 35 years old, Cain’s recovery times are likely to get slower and he’ll need more rest days. That’s where adding Bradley comes in.
Indeed, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray, Cain is not back to 100% quite yet and that could’ve been the impetus to getting this deal done.
After Cain opted out in 2020, the Brewers had to replace him with Avisail Garcia, and they suffered a severe drop off in centerfield defense. The Run Prevention Unit buckled.
Stearns and Counsell don’t want to see that happen again.
While Cain won’t opt out this time around, in case of injury they’ll be completely covered in the outfield with no drop off in defensive ability.
How will getting everyone the at-bats they need work after signing Jackie Bradley Jr.
Counsell will make it work. He’ll find a way. The Brewers went this route in 2018 after signing Yelich and Cain and things worked out just fine for the team (although not so much for Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton). In 2020, they added Garcia when they still had Braun and everyone ended up getting more than enough at-bats.
The Brewers will rotate through, frequently giving off days to Cain to rest his legs and Garcia to ensure he’s healthy. Yelich is the only one who’s not likely to have his playing time impacted by this.
Cain will likely player fewer games in 2021 than he did in 2018 and 2019. Now with Bradley in the fold, the Brewers can be comfortable with that and still keep elite defense in center for all 162 games.
If anyone can make this work, it’s Craig Counsell. The plan for playing time was likely already communicated to Bradley Jr before he signed. He knows Cain, Garcia, and Yelich are already here and that Milwaukee didn’t need him, but he agreed to come on board anyways. He knows what he’s walking into and how many ABs he’s expected to get.
If it wasn’t going to be a significant amount of starts, he wouldn’t have signed. It creates a bit of a logjam in the outfield, but that’s not a bad thing. The Brewers are adding a very talented player who has won a World Series, an ALCS MVP, Gold Glove, and has been an All Star. That’s not a bad acquisition by any stretch.
The Brewers have a more talented roster now than they did yesterday, and given the uncertainty and randomness of a 162 game baseball season, pardon the pun, but they’re making sure they have their bases covered with a very important position group.
David Stearns never makes the predictable move, and he certainly lived up to his reputation here.