First it was Kolten Wong and now it’s Jackie Bradley, Jr. If you are a studly defensive player with a league-average bat and your market didn’t develop the way you hoped this offseason, the Brewers are waiting to pick you up on the cheap.
Bradley was hoping for a whole lot more than this:
Source confirms: Free-agent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in agreement with Brewers. Two years, $24M with opt-out after first year, per @byJulianMack, who was first with the news.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 4, 2021
It’ll depend on the structure of the deal a bit to see just how big of a bargain this is for the Brewers, but even if more than half of the $24 million is coming in the first year, it’s a relative steal on a guy who has been worth nearly 3.0 WAR even in his seasons where he was 10% worse than average at the plate. His excellent outfield defense raises his production floor considerably.
Ultimately, teams must’ve been wary of Bradley’s short-season, BABIP-fueled offensive burst in 2020, and I can’t blame them for that part. If you were signing Bradley, 31 in April, thinking that he’d be an above-average bat in 2021, you were far more likely than not to be disappointed.
But, as with Wong, a league-average – or even slightly below league-average – bat that can offer up top-tier defense certainly has value. And by adding Bradley to Wong, the Brewers are making the bet that the improvement in their defense – really considerable when you include those two plus the return of Lorenzo Cain – will be enough to overcome what looks like a really meh offense once again this year.
The Brewers can now coordinate Bradley, Cain, Christian Yelich, and Avisail Garcia in the outfield, while also coordinating with Dan Vogelbach at the DH spot if there is a last-minute move on the DH (the Brewers are now all the better set up for that if it happens (something something Cubs go sign Yoenis Cespedes something something).
Brewers pitchers are probably pretty darn happy this morning, and this signing could move the needle at least a little bit in the NL Central. Bradley’s defense is that good.