Now that the Phillies have a president to lead the baseball operations department, Dave Dombrowksi has a lot of roster decisions to make for this team. It seems that he would like to reunite with a familiar face to fill one of those holes.
Of course we should take this with a grain of salt, as I am sure the Phillies will show interest in a lot of players this offseason, but Jackie Bradley Jr. would be quite an interesting fit with the team. Dombrowski knows JBJ very well, as they spent time together when Dombrowski was in Boston. JBJ has developed into one of the better defensive centerfielders in the game of baseball today, and would certainly fit the bill as a starting CF in the lineup. Last season, the Phillies went with a platoon of Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn in center. While it wasn’t the worst route for the Phillies to go, they could certainly use a little more production in that spot.
JBJ was drafted in the 1st round by Boston way back in 2011 out of South Carolina. He was a big time prospect during his time in their system, with the team having hopes that he would be the roaming the outfield in Fenway Park for years to come. While he made his debut for the team in 2013, JBJ never really developed offensively like the team had hoped, outside of his All-Star season back in 2016. All in all, he is a career .239/.321/.412 hitter with 98 HRs and 376 RBIs. He is coming off his best season (granted, 2020 wasn’t a complete season) to date, slashing a healthy .283/.364/.450 in 217 at bats. While some of his underlying stats say that a regression is in store next season, he still packs a punch for a bottom-of-the-order bat.
When the Phillies signed Didi Gregorius last year, it was thought that his swing path would fit perfectly in our stadium, and it did. Similarly, I think there could be some potential to be unlocked if JBJ was to play 81 games in CBP. Right field in Fenway is not an easy pull field for a lefthanded hitter. While it’s only 302 feet to the corner, it immediately jumps up to 380 feet where the bullpens are, making it more difficult for lefty pull hitters to hit bombs (unless you are Big Papi). Citizens Bank on the other hand, has a much more gradual increase from 330 feet down the corner to 369 feet in right center. A hitter like JBJ doesn’t have to necessarily barrel a ball to get it out of CBP like he did in Fenway, making this a possible high-reward type of move. Bradley is one of the streakiest bats in the game, but when he is hot, he is HOT.
Defensively, JBJ has made a living making highlight reel catch after catch, with help from above average speed and fantastic routes taken to the balls. Outs Above Average (OAA) is a range-based metric of skill that shows how many outs a player has saved. Measuring by OAA, Bradley has never ranked below the 91st percentile and has finished in the 99th percentile twice including 2020. Since he became a regular in 2014, he is seventh among all outfielders in UZR and eighth in Defensive Runs Saved. He won the 2018 Gold Glove Award and continued his excellence this year, finishing ninth in Defensive Runs Saved. He has good range and a strong arm for a centerfielder. You want your strongest defenders up the middle, and Bradley would certainly be one of the Phillies best defenders.
While I wish that Adam Haseley could have gotten more of an opportunity to take the reigns of the centerfield, I don’t think he brings the same type of defensive intangibles that JBJ does. I think that Haseley has a very good chance of developing into a player like Jackie Bradley, but current day Bradley fits the timeline of this team better than Haseley. Roman Quinn, on the other hand, still thinks that he can hit balls in the air, and he depreciates his own value by doing that. A player with his speed should be putting balls in play every single time up. With both a disappointing player and an unproven commodity at their disposal, it would make sense for the Phillies to be looking long and hard at bringing a centerfielder in this offseason.
Depending on the contract he wants, this would definitely be a shrewd move for the Phillies and Dombrowski to make. I think a player like Kevin Pillar is a fine comparison to JBJ, and last year, he had to settle for a 1-year, $4.5 million contract with Boston. If I’m the Phillies, that’s the type of contract I’m looking to give to JBJ. With the already mentioned payroll cuts that the team is going to make, I don’t want this type of signing to hinder our ability to make other moves (that JT Realmuto guy seems like he would be a good fit here).
It seems the offseason is picking up steam. Slowly, but surely.
We’ll see what kind of moves Dombrowski has up his sleeve.