Although baseball has witnessed a very lukewarm stove to begin the offseason, things are beginning to heat up as the holidays quickly approach. The newest rumor on the mill? The Cubs are interested in former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. Ironically, Bradley Jr. was the last first-round pick by former Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein in Boston.
Bradley Jr., or JBJ for short, made his MLB debut in 2013, playing in 37 games as a 23-year-old. He became a regular for the Red Sox in 2014, playing 127 games.
The link to the Cubs is very clear. David Ross, Cubs’ manager, and Craig Breslow, Cubs’ Assistant General Manager, were both teammates with JBJ in his time out east. That said, does he fit what the Cubs need?
When examining players available, it’s always important to understand their numbers and what they’re bringing to the table. Offensively, JBJ leaves some to be desired, but defensively, he has been one of the best centerfield gloves in the game since he entered the majors.
Let’s start with the offense. JBJ is a career .239/.321/.412 hitter with 98 career home runs and 376 RBIs. However, he produced below 100 wRC+ for most of his career. That is understandably a concern for a lot of fans, knowing the Cubs need a consistent bat such as a Michael Brantley (a ~130 wRC+ player). However, Bradley has eclipsed the century mark in that category two times (2015 and 2016) with 123 and 118 wRC+, respectively. He also enjoyed a successful shortened campaign in 2020, posting a 119 wRC+.
If JBJ can repeat what he did in 2020, then the offensive fit could be there for him to roam centerfield at Wrigley.
On the defensive side, there is no concern with Bradley Jr. JBJ has logged numerous seasons of positive defensive runs saved (DRS), posting 16, 14, and 15 DRS in 2014, 2016, and 2017, respectively. Sure, it’s been a few years since he posted those numbers, but the free-agent recorded five DRS in 2020.
In recent years, the Cubs have prided themselves on being a sound defensive baseball team. However, it’s been a long time since the Cubs have had an elite defender roaming center field on a daily basis. Dexter Fowler was good defensively, but not elite, so finding a name that stands out would take quite a bit of research.
After Kyle Schwarber’s departure, Ian Happ could easily slide over to left field and be the Cubs’ everyday guy. Adding Jackie Bradley Jr. to an outfield with Jason Heyward would immediately give the Cubs one of the best defensive outfields in the league.
The Cubs could also rely heavily on their outfield defense for a full nine innings instead of needing defensive substitutions as they did with Schwarber for years.
Match that idea with the connection to Boston found throughout the Cubs organization and the idea of JBJ to the Cubs makes a lot of sense.
Personally, I believe Jackie Bradley Jr. would be a worthwhile addition for the Cubs. Assuming the to-be 31-year-old can replicate what he did at the plate last season, mixed with an elite glove that saw him win a Gold Glove in 2018 and add an All-Star appearance in 2016, there is a lot of promise for adding Bradley Jr. in centerfield at Clark & Addison.
The key will come down to money, naturally. However, based on JBJ’s history and the type of player that he is, there is a good chance that he would cost less than what Kyle Schwarber would have, meaning the Cubs could diversify their lineup without having to add a lot of money to their payroll.
Statistics and figures provided by Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.