If the New York Mets fail to sign George Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr. wouldn’t be a satisfying enough consolation prize.
The New York Mets are hot in pursuit of George Springer with the plan to have him play center field for them in 2021 and beyond. If that fails, they do have a few other free agents they can turn to. One often talked about option is Jackie Bradley Jr.
The longtime Boston Red Sox outfielder had a very Dominic Smith-like experience in Beantown. He hit below the Mendoza Line in 2013 and 2014 before he began to put things together in 2015. In 2016, JBJ was an All-Star. He hit .267/.349/.486 while ripping 26 home runs, driving in 87, and posting a defensive WAR of 2 playing exclusively in center field.
Bradley Jr.’s offensive numbers have been mostly pedestrian since. Lifetime, he’s now slashing .239/.321/.412 with an average of 18 home runs per 162 games.
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It’s not the offensive numbers that make Bradley Jr. someone a team would consider signing this winter. It’s what he can do with his glove. Known as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, he could certainly improve the Mets in this aspect.
However, he’s not exactly the greatest fit. He strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit for average or even reach base at a good clip. He’s another lefty hitter for a lineup that could use a righty in center field. While there are exceptions, Bradley Jr. isn’t it for me.
The Mets have a center field need but not one where they need to overpay for someone to man the position just to upgrade the defense. Bradley Jr. isn’t bad by any stretch. He just seems a little mismatched for what this club is missing most.
Understanding this would still put the Mets in the best position to align their defense better, it’s the weak offense that has me shaking my head at the thought.
Bradley Jr. did have an excellent 2020 season. In his 217 plate appearances, he slashed .283/.364/.450 for a bad Boston squad. This could have turned into a career-year for him if only the world wasn’t suffering through a global pandemic and we got more than 60 regular season games.
There’s no question Bradley Jr. would give the Mets a boost in some areas. Easily the second-best center fielder on the market, I would almost prefer to see them go with a cheaper option—potentially even a platoon—and have the resources to spend elsewhere.
Two names I wouldn’t mind seeing are Kevin Pillar and Jake Marisnick. Each has a solid past playing center field and doing it with a little gold in his glove.
Marisnick is definitely more of a platoon or fourth outfielder type. We didn’t get to see enough of him with the Mets in 2020 to really judge him fully. In a part-time role, I wouldn’t be opposed.
Pillar, on the other hand, is far more capable of handling everyday duties. I’m pretty amazed we haven’t heard more about him and the Mets this winter. After looking over his recent numbers at the plate, he’s actually quite enticing.
With Pillar, the question might be about how much longer he can play center field. Last year, he played a lot of right field with the Red Sox and finished off the year in center field with the Colorado Rockies. His defensive numbers in Denver weren’t great. Why sign him at all if he’ll play center field similarly to Brandon Nimmo?
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In their pursuit of an outfielder, the Mets may need to decide on what they want most from the man that plays the position. They can solve it all by simply signing Springer—the best balance of offense and defense available.