Red Sox

What experts are saying about the Red Sox re-acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr.

"It's tough to imagine Bradley being as bad as he was in 2021."

Jackie Bradley Jr. makes a diving catch. Chris O'Meara/AP File Photo

Jackie Bradley Jr., who spent eight years with the Red Sox from 2013-2020, is back with the team following a one-season hiatus.

The Red Sox on Wednesday acquired the outfielder Bradley, plus infielders David Hamilton and Alex Binelas, from the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

While Bradley Jr. is a known commodity and widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in the game, he’s coming off a particularly poor offensive season in which he hit .163 in 134 games with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The consensus among experts is that it’s a surprising move – particularly considering his struggles a season ago – but that it’s important to look at it through a wider lens.

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Chris Cotillo of MassLive wrote the move boils down to Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s desire to focus on both the present and the future. While Renfroe is clearly the better offensive player, giving him up allowed Bloom to get Binelas and Hamilton.

Binelas, a 21-year-old lefty batter with intriguing power, and Hamilton, a 24-year-old who stole 52 bases in his first full year in the minors, both have enticing upside.

“This was one that, a few days ago, I would not have thought would be on our radar,” Bloom told reporters. “As things developed over the course of the last few days, it was something that we felt makes sense.”

Bloom said everyone knows the ability Bradley has is better than what he showed last year, and the hope is that he’ll return to form in a familiar environment.

Lou Merloni, speaking on NBC Sports Boston, believes it’s important to look at the big-picture nature of the trade. He said they didn’t get better for the 2022 season, but he’s excited about the two prospects. They essentially took on Bradley’s salary, Merloni said, to get Binelas and Hamilton.

“This isn’t anything about Jackie Bradley,” Merloni said. “This is about the prospects they got for him.”

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Merloni added that it’s very possible the Red Sox will acquire one more outfielder and send Bradley elsewhere.

The Boston Globe‘s Alex Speier wrote the Red Sox are likely to pursue another bat as a potential upgrade over Renfroe. He added that Binelas and Hamilton were key parts of the equation and that the Red Sox essentially “used their financial clout to buy young talent.”

Colleague Julian McWilliams added that the Red Sox “sent New England into a frenzy” by acquiring Bradley, Binelas, and Hamilton just before Major League Baseball imposed a lockout at midnight.

He said Bradley’s bat path is “made for Fenway Park and its short left field.” In 2020, Bradley used that part of the park 27.8 percent of the time, per McWilliams, the highest mark of his career. He stayed up the middle a career-high 42.4 percent of the time and pulled it 29.9 percent – the lowest of his career.

While his hitting may return to form at Fenway, McWilliams made it clear Bradley wasn’t brought back for his bat. He was reacquired to excel as a fielder and serve as a steady presence.

“Even though he’s been inconsistent during his career, it’s tough to imagine Bradley being as bad as he was in 2021 for the Brewers,” McWilliams wrote. “Furthermore, Bradley has experience and familiarity with not only the Red Sox but the American League East, which should produce some positive results.”

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Ian Browne of MLB.com noted that there’s a chance Bradley will get at least some playing time in right field. With strong outfielder Alex Verdugo in left, outstanding fielder Kiké Hernández in center or right, and Bradley in center or right, the Red Sox cover a whole lot of ground.

“Jackie is really one of the best, especially one of the best in this ballpark, that’s ever done it,” Bloom said. “And so to have him back, I think, the more the merrier in terms of premium outfield defenders here.”

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