Jackie Bradley Jr. finally signed a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. The long-rumored New York Mets target has a home with a two-year deal worth $24 million with an opt-out after 2021.
The defensively-gifted and occasionally productive hitter was someone every Mets fan talked about as a possibility to play center field this year. At the price he ended up signing, it’s hard to say New York was ever all that serious about JBJ joining the Mets.
It’s not much of a surprise either. No DH, several more affordable outfield options, and possibly some faith in Brandon Nimmo all led to Bradley Jr. spending his 2021 season in colors other than orange and blue.
Mets went in a different direction with their outfield plans this winter
The Mets, at some point, were in on just about every available free agent at their positions of need. Bradley Jr. was always a possibility, especially when George Springer ended up with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Heading into the offseason, adding a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder was near the top of the club’s needs. Bradley Jr. was arguably the best on that side of the baseball available. Instead of signing him and trying to make their other pieces fit, the Mets decided to subtract as little from their roster as possible and instead add around an already solid core.
Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr. will instead fill the role some believed Bradley Jr. was born to play in New York. Capable of flashing some leather themselves, these two are making far less money in 2021 than Bradley Jr.
I know money shouldn’t be an issue with Steve Cohen as the owner. However, an argument could be made that the Mets are in better shape with what they do have rather than what the roster would look like with Bradley Jr. as the starting center fielder—even at the cost of defense.
Only a DH would have landed JBJ
Because the Mets were reluctant to trade Nimmo and Dominic Smith this winter, they will have to head into the year with each playing out of position. Nimmo is the starting center fielder. To his right, we find Dominic Smith still trying to learn left field.
It’s a temporary problem for the Mets. After having a DH in 2020 in the National League, it’s inevitable that it returns again in 2022. When it does, the Mets will have a little more flexibility with their roster. Only then would it make more sense to roll the dice on a questionable bat with a superb glove when the end result weakens the offense.
The Mets could have made it work with Bradley Jr. on the roster instead of one of their other reserve outfielders. It would have meant sitting a starter regularly which would have made the bench even better but could have also frustrated a few players and lead to a few slumps from a lack of playing time.
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Bradley Jr. won’t be a member of the Mets in 2021. His opt-out after this season just means the speculation may return all over again next winter when we brace ourselves for what will potentially be yet another exciting winter for the team in Flushing.