The SF Giants have a list of needs that they will be looking to fill this offseason, and Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr could be a fit.
The list of SF Giants needs this offseason includes a left-handed bat, starting pitching depth, and veteran relievers. Boston Red Sox outfielder and impending free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. could help the SF Giants fill that first need.
Earlier this week, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi went on KNBR and explained that the roster has a shortage of at-bats to give out on the position player side. With that in mind, he indicated that San Francisco would be seeking complementary position players in free agency.
This would seem to rule out the upper echelon of the free-agent market. However, the Giants could decide to re-kick the tires on Bradley, who they were rumored to be interested in at the MLB trade deadline.
Fresh off the heels of an eight-year run with the Boston Red Sox, Bradley Jr. is poised to earn a nice payday in his first run through free agency.
As a team, the Giants posted a .764 OPS against right-handed pitchers, so it makes sense that the Giants would be targeting a left-handed bat as there is room for improvement. Bradley has handled righties to the tune of a .752 OPS, which would not necessarily be an upgrade, but it would bring some stability from the left side.
Throughout his major league career, the left-handed bat has produced mixed results at the plate. He has registered a .239/.321/.412 line (94 OPS+) with 98 home runs and 376 RBI. He boasts a 9.3 percent walk rate against a 25.2 percent strikeout rate, so he possesses the type of plate discipline and patience that the Giants target as well.
At times, he has proven to be an above-average hitter, but he has struggled to find that consistency. For example, Bradley posted a 118 OPS+ across 217 plate appearances in 2020, but this was the first time he posted an OPS+ north of the 100-mark since 2016.
He did put together a strong campaign in 2020. He finished the year with a .283/.364/.450 line with seven home runs and 22 RBI.
On a down note, his 88.3 MPH exit velocity was tied for the lowest mark in his career, and his 4.4-degree launch angle was by far the lowest of his career. While the surface-level stats are strong, the underlying numbers will scare off some teams. So, his stats might look less favorable if he had played through a regular season.
Despite this, Bradley’s calling card has been his defense. The 30-year-old was stellar with the glove earlier in his career, but he continues to post strong marks and highlight reels:
The veteran outfielder earned a Gold Glove award in 2018 and he has been worth over ten DRS in three different seasons. The American League has been spoiled over the past decade with outstanding gloves like Bradley, Kevin Pillar, and Kevin Kiermaier robbing home runs left and right.
In 2020, he continued to post strong defensive numbers as he was worth five DRS and 1.8 UZR while roaming the outfield grass at Fenway Park.
To put it simply, his glove is the more valuable part of his game, but he can do some damage with the bat. Either way, anything a team gets from Bradley in the batter’s box should be considered a bonus.
On paper, he would be a fit for the Giants and could become part of a solid platoon timeshare in the outfield. As currently constructed, San Francisco has Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon, Darin Ruf, and Austin Slater as their incumbent outfielders.
If they run with a strict platoon at the corner outfield spots, then they may want a stronger glove in right field to go with Dickerson in left field. Dickerson has not produced favorable marks in the outfield since joining the Giants so that maybe one trend they want to manage.
The next question is what type of contract Bradley is looking for? The former first-round pick earned a pro-rated $11 million salary in 2020, but I cannot see him earning anything near that on the open market.
At best, he may get a two-year, $15 million contract in free agency. If he is available at or near that rate, then I do think the SF Giants will have interest. It just makes sense to revisit that interest now that they can acquire Jackie Bradley Jr. without needed to surrender anything to the Boston Red Sox in return.