Jackie Bradley Jr. May Not Be Viable CF Option For Mets
The Mets are in need of a centerfielder this offseason, George Springer is obviously the top target. Arguably, he is THE top target for the Mets. The problem for the Mets is Springer will be that for several baseball teams.
One of those teams is his hometown team Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox not only offer a return to home for Springer, but they also have Alex Cora, who Springer developed a good relationship with during their time on the Houston Astros. Combine that with the Red Sox deep pockets (even if they cry poor), and even with Steve Cohen, he may be difficult to sign.
If that is the case, the Mets will need to look towards their Plan B. Perhaps the top Plan B option is Jackie Bradley Jr.
The positives with Bradley is his defense. This past year, he was the second best center fielder with a 7 OAA. DRS doesn’t rank him as high, but his 5 OAA did rank him as fifth best.
The OAA mark wasn’t a short sample size anomaly with Bradley’s 6 OAA ranking him 14th. His -2 DRS tells a different story. In 2018, he was at a -1 DRS. Really, when you look at it, there has been a wide disparity between how OAA and DRS views Bradley’s defense.
According to OAA, he’s a very good fielder, and DRS has him as slightly below average. Splitting the difference, from 2018 – 2020, Bradley’s 7.9 UZR is the fourth best among center fielders.
There is a potential reason for that disparity. As described quite well and in-depth by MLB Tonights‘ Eric Byrnes, center field in Fenway Park is very complicated.
No matter which metric you rely, it is a clear Bradley would be a significant upgrade defensively at an important position. That said, there is a debate as to how much of an upgrade he represents. There is also the issue as to how long he can be that upgrade.
Next year, Bradley will be 31. While he hasn’t show issues with slowing down per se, he has never been fast for his position. In fact, even at his quickest in 2018, his 27.8 ft/sec sprint speed was only 50th best at the position.
Really, Bradley relies upon positioning and a good quick jump to field his position. In terms of positioning, the Mets promise to truly fortify the front office, which would give him what he needs to succeed from a positioning standpoint. However, once he loses a step, his days in center may well be over.
That is very problematic for Bradley as he is not a very good offensive player. For his career, he is only a 93 wRC+. Heading into 2020, he was really declining at the plate posting a 90 wRC+ over the previous three seasons.
That indicates his 119 wRC+ in 2020 was a complete outlier. When you dig through the numbers, it was a the result of a wholly unreliable small sample size. His .343 BABIP will regress back to his .298 career mark. According to his Baseball Savant page, his hard hit percentage and exit velocities are in a three year decline.
This all makes Bradley a massive risk. He’s at an age when his skills will be in decline. That does double for his speed and jump. He does not have the bat where he can play at a corner outfield position. Really, where his bat is now, you cannot justify playing him everyday unless he is playing a very good to elite center field.
If you are the Mets, this should be a good indication Springer needs to be the top target this offseason, and he may be the player they need to go past their point of comfort to ensure he comes to the Mets. If not Springer, there aren’t really any viable Plan B options because it would seem Bradley isn’t one.