Thursday, February 19, 2015

Does Jackie Bradley Jr. Make Sense for the Braves?

There has been a lot of buzz recently that the Braves have an interest, sometimes called strong, in Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. David O'Brien tweets that the interest was early this offseason, implying that the Braves have backed off. If that latter part is true, this might be the case of someone high up in the Braves front office liking Bradley and wanting to see if Boston had soured enough for the Braves to sweep Bradley away for nothing.

But if the Braves still are interested in Bradley, there are two bugaboos to look at.

Jim Rogash | Getty Images Sport
Where Does Bradley Fit?

Notice that I'm not saying the Braves shouldn't target Bradley. Many have made the mistake of putting too much focus on his first two years with major league time while undervaluing his potential. Here's what we know. Bradley, like Andrelton Simmons, brings a lot of value to the table because of his defense. But will he hit? So far, not so well. In 530 PA, or essentially a full season, he's hit a putrid .196/.268/.280. But, when Bradley was rocketing up the ladder, he was much more productive. Two things are notably missing. In 232 minor league games, Bradley posted a .394 OBP. That was built largely on a 12.7 BB% to go with a 18 K%. In the majors, those rates go the opposite way you'd like by considerable amounts (7.7 BB%, 28.7 K%). Bradley also posted a .166 ISO in the minors, about 50 points higher than his major league total. 

But Bradley's only 24 coming into his age-25 season. Before 2014, Bradley was a Top 50 prospect. His prospect status was even higher the previous year. Bradley is the right guy to take a chance on, but should it be with the Braves? Does he fit in?

Short answer, if he performs, sure. Yes, I know the Braves have a CF and probably will for the foreseeable future, but let's not get stuck on his implications on other players. I'll put it this way: if acquired, Bradley could be the most talented major-league ready outfielder the Braves have in 2015. Better than B.J. Upton? Duh. Better than Nick Markakis? Absolutely. Better than the Jonny Almonte monster? You betcha. Bradley has the potential to be better than all of them. Again, he'll have to perform, but the Braves can find a way to make it fit even if it costs people playing time. 

Do the Braves and Red Sox Match Up as Trading Partners?

The easy part is done. Should the Braves be interested in Bradley? That question is too easy. But is there a trade to be made here? That requires the two teams to find a common ground. The first problem is found in how highly the Red Sox value Bradley. As Over the Monster suggests, even if the Red Sox have soured on Bradley, they might not want to deal him when his value is so low. The Red Sox would probably be better off sending him back to the minors and letting him produce at a higher level before trading him. At the very least, as Peter Gammons says, this is a post St. Patrick's Day at best.

But even if the Red Sox are still interested, the Braves will probabaly have to give them a good prospect. That's not a deal breaker, but it depends on what the Red Sox are looking for. Giving up on Mike Minor now would be a waste even if the relationship has been strained by arbitration. Several of the prospects the Braves have acquired are too valuable to the near future (Michael Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz, Max Fried) for the Braves to trade right now. Would the Red Sox be interested in a long-term asset like Ricardo Sanchez? Or would they want someone with the chance to help them sooner (i.e. Tyrell Jenkins)? Maybe they will remain bullish on Lucas Sims and the Braves balk.

This is where this deal is hard for me to see. I see the Braves interest, but I am having trouble seeing a trade unless the Red Sox want to sweeten the pot with lefty Brian Johnson or right-hander Matt Barnes and take back Minor in return. But would the Red Sox want to add yet another middle-of-the-rotation guy to their cadre of similar pitchers? Does Minor actually represent a noticeable improvement? Again, this is where this trade doesn't move from spit-balling to a real possibility for me. I'd like to add Bradley to the rebuild movement and I can see why the Braves would want the same thing. I can also see why Bradley doesn't fit with the Red Sox after the emergence of Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo, which is why Bradley might be expendable, but the Red Sox naturally aren't anxious to trade a guy with a higher upside at his lowest for trade value.

Overall, I'd be happy if the Braves acquired him, but I think the price will be prohibitive. 

No comments:

Post a Comment