MLB Trade Deadline: Jackie Bradley Jr. could be a perfect center field fit for Phillies

Bradley Jr. could be for the current and future Phillies what Maddox was for the 70’s-80’s teams. (Keith Allison)

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have a number of holes that could use filling if the club wants to seriously take a run at the 2019 postseason.

The struggles of the pitching staff are well known to all Phillies fans. The starting rotation could use two more reliable, veteran arms. The bullpen, struggling through numerous injuries all season, could use better options as well.

Among the reserve position players, a more reliable, veteran backup is needed at catcher. In addition, the club could use a more talented veteran bat with some pop than is currently available off the bench for manager Gabe Kapler.

The glaring need in the everyday lineup can be found out in center field. That is the one position that immediately jumps out as an area where improvement is needed.

During this season, the Phillies suffered the unexpected loss of the incumbent starter, Odubel Herrera, to his legal troubles and league suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. It is not likely that he is ever going to appear in a Phillies uniform again, at least not if the fan base has anything to say about it.

Andrew McCutchen sliding over was a possibility, and the veteran actually filled in a number of games when Herrera had suffered an April injury. But McCutchen was also lost for the season when he suffered an ugly knee injury which required surgery. He will not return until spring training of next year.

Kapler has been trying to get by with a combination of the perpetually out-of-position Scott Kingery and the perpetually injured Roman Quinn. Also, youngster Adam Haseley has been given a shot when healthy.

But if the Phillies are serious about getting to the 2019 postseason and making a legitimate further run by 2020, they need a more proven answer in center field. Enter my suggestion as a potential trade target, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley is a 29-year-old Virginia native who was the Red Sox pick at 40th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of South Carolina. He made his big-league debut in the 2013 season, and is now in his fourth season as Boston’s full-time starter in center field.

He is not a big hitter, carrying a career slash line of just .237/.319/.405 over nearly 3,000 plate appearances. He has demonstrated some pop in the past, with a 26 homer-87 RBI campaign during his lone AL All-Star season back in 2016. He has modest speed, topping off with 17 stolen bases a year ago.

What Bradley brings to the Red Sox, and what he would bring to the Phillies were they to find a deal, is truly elite defense in the middle of the outfield. You see, for my money, Bradley is as good a defensive center fielder as I have ever seen. That is not a statement to be taken lightly when I got to see Garry Maddox roam the outfield every day for a decade in a Phillies uniform.

Bradley has won just one Gold Glove Award. That came for his work last year. And that is a flat-out crime, no disrespect to players such as Byron Buxton, Kevin Keirmaier, Brett Gardner, Kole Calhoun or Nick Markakis, each of whom has taken home one of those plaques awarded in the American League since the 2014 season.

With a defensive outfield of McCutchen in left, Bradley in center, and Bryce Harper in right, the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies would put one of the top defensive groups in the game out there day after day. This season, Bradley would help cover for some of left fielder Jay Bruce‘s defensive shortcomings.

On a championship contender with multiple offensive weapons, a defensive whiz as good as Bradley can be part of the lineup. The Phillies should have those weapons already in place with Harper, McCutchen and Bruce joining shortstop Jean Segura, catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Scott Kingery and third baseman Maikel Franco – or top prospect Alec Bohm at the hot corner.

The present group has not produced as consistently as they are capable of during this 2019 season. I still expect them to elevate their individual and collective games over the final two and a half months. Much more should certainly be expected of them over the longer haul in the next couple of years.

Bradley can be a free agent after the 2020 season. The Phillies would have him for a run this year and next, unless they chose to extend him. If the Phillies could ink Bradley to a two-year extension, carrying him through 2022 and his age 32 season, that could be ideal.

The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak, would turn just 24-years-old in May of 2022. He is a center fielder who has begun to look like a potential big-league regular. Should that development path continue at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, then Moniak may be ready. But spending a year serving as a backup to acclimate could also prove valuable.

As a price for Bradley, the Red Sox, like most other clubs, would probably be looking at young pitching. Perhaps a combination of Adonis Medina with one of the more experienced arms such as Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez would get it done.

Why would Boston do it? First, the Red Sox can cover the position by sliding over left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who could be a strong center fielder in his own right. In return for a player who they could lose to free agency 15 months from now they would get a pair of live arms.

The Red Sox could call up one of the top power bats in the minor leagues, Bobby Dalbec, to play in left with the Green Monster behind him. Or Dalbec could play first, with Michael Chavis flipping to left. Boston could also shop for a short-term power bat to man the position.

Boston is currently sitting in third place in the American League East Division, nine games behind the arch-rival New York Yankees. They are 1.5 out as part of a five-team scrum within three games of one another in the AL Wildcard race.

The Phillies need more than this, I know. They still have to go out and get better quality pitching of their own. That is going to prove extremely difficult in the present market, with a number of contenders looking for the same thing, a few of whom seem better positioned to land the more talented and experienced available arms.

Fill in your holes. Try to make a run in 2019, but also keep an eye towards 2020 and the following couple of seasons as well. That is what a Bradley deal would be all about. Fill that center field hole with a truly elite defender, and move on to the filling the next hole. Pick up the phone, Matt Klentak, and give Boston GM Dave Dombrowski a call.






  1. Andrew

    July 14, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Bradley could be had for almost salary relief. Medina for Bradley? Yeah, ok.

  2. Clint

    July 15, 2019 at 3:30 am

    The Phillies already have a great defensive CF who can’t hit, Roman Quinn. Jackie Bradley’s lifetime BA is .237 and it’s been trending downward the last 4 years.
    Since the Phils can’t pitch, except for Aaron Nola, they need all the offence they can get.

  3. Craig Glessner

    July 15, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Can he pitch? Because all trading for him is going to do is put Franco on the bench because there is no way in hell Kapler will bench Hernandez. Then next season that will put Bruce on the bench much more frequently. Good idea the last time I checked most teams have 5 starting pitchers in their rotation we have 3 and an injured Arrieta.

    • Andrew

      July 15, 2019 at 9:50 am

      We have 3 PLUS Arrieta!?!?! That’s awfully generous of you…

      • Craig Glessner

        July 15, 2019 at 9:36 pm

        Yeah I was feeling generous towards Eflin and Pivetta. Maybe the 2 combined equal 1 decent pitcher. I don’t know what Arrieta is equal to. When you start working with fractions you know you have pitching problems. Either way maybe we can convert Bradley into a pitcher if someone hits a fly ball he can track it down and we use an extreme shift with only 2 infielders. I hope Kapler don’t read this he may just try it! Sarcasm is all that’s keeping me going this season

  4. Joseph

    July 15, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Sorry but I disagree with trading for Bradley Jr. . He has a 25.5% strikeout rate. A very low slugging pct. And Fangraphs has him at a -0.4 Defensive rating this year. At 29 yrs old I would have very little interest in him. And I don’t want to give Medina in a Bradley deal. Phillies need all the pitching prospects possible. Unless it’s for a Major League starting Pitcher.

  5. Randy

    July 15, 2019 at 11:52 am

    That would be a very strong thanks but no thanks for me. We do not need another guy who can’t hit on this team. And giving up Medina, a definite non-starter. Maybe giving up Pivetta as that could be addition by subtraction.

  6. john aartz

    July 15, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    come on man , in the last two games we had 2 of the years best catches in baseball. , each from a different center fielder . Damn , how may leads has the bull pen given up for losses that should of gone in the win column ? Right now we need pitching , period. Relief and starters . Our offence will come around and right now our defence is good enough.

  7. Alex

    July 15, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    No way, he wouldn’t be a upgrade over anything. The mighty Quinn and Kingery in center are just fine. They need two starters and a magic pill that wakes up all their power hitters, Rhys looks like he just a click off from one of his hot streaks. Would be nice is Rhys & Bryce can bomb the Dodgers out of town but I’m dreamin

  8. Thiago

    July 15, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    TRADE FOR A HITTER LIKE JACKIE BRADLEY JR?? OMG!!! HAHAHAHHAHAHA!!! Is this a joke?? HAHAHAHHAHA Man, WF** a hitter like JBJ will improve us??

  9. JC

    July 19, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    Should had taken Moustakas when they could have had him for 3B and LeMahieu who is tearing it up npw to play 2B and traded Cesar last offseason. Too late now,unless you get a guy like KC’s Whitfield who has some pop and steals some bases…but there’s no reason for KC to make that deal. Article didn’t mention what would happen to Jay Bruce who other than being hurt was having a nice season in Philly.

  10. steve

    July 24, 2019 at 6:01 am

    This would be a steal for the Phillies. If it cost them Cesar Hernandez and a lefty bullpen piece i would do it ASAP. Move Kingery back to 2B. JBJ is as solid as they come Defensively so much that you can bat him 8th and he still would be no automatic out. Put Bruce to the Left Harper to the Right. Infield of Hoskins Kingery Segura and the greatly improved Maikey at 3rd (At least for 2019 or til Bohm is ready) with Realmuto C thats a team with potential to score lots of runs and play great D esp up the middle. Pitching is a whole other need- Id try and get Ray and Greinke

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