Could Cincinnati Be A Good Fit For Jackie Bradley Jr.?

The rumor mill is churning away fiercely this week. There’s a lot of mouth-watering news for Boston Red Sox fans. At the forefront is the Boston’s dogged pursuit of acquiring Aroldis Chapman in trade talks with the Cincinnati Reds.

That’s all been covered to death, and I’m not here to beat that dead horse anymore. What I’m interested in is what it takes to get that deal done. I would speculate that the outfield depth at the Major League level the Sox have could provide the centerpiece. Keep in mind, Chapman will be 28 by the second week of Spring Training. He’s still in his prime, so the Reds would be obliged to ask for a pretty healthy haul in return. It doesn’t matter that this is Chapman’s walk year. He is the best closer available on the trade market.

Now, I don’t have the time, nor the heart, to compile a list of all the prospects the Sox would have to ship to Great American Ballpark for Chapman. I do, however, think that Jackie Bradley Jr. will be the centerpiece, if a deal is completed. And here are a few reasons why I think this could be mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

First of all, his defense is stellar. That part of his game has never been in question.

Sure, the highlights are there; Bradley is constantly putting up outfield Web Gems. Yet, in the Information Age, it’s always nice to back up what we see – and therefore think is true – with data that verifies our judgments. According to FanGraphs, in 1862.1 big league innings in the field, Bradley has contributed 19 Defensive Runs Saved (the exact same as Aaron Rowand had in 9972 innings). Bradley has also amassed 12.3 Fielding Runs Above Average in his short career. That’s 1.2 FRAA better than Billy Hamilton in 41 less career games.

I’m not just picking on Hamilton. I’m pretty sure that if the Reds got Bradley, JBJ would be their starting centerfielder, with Hamilton being the fourth outfielder.

That seems pretty logical. Hamilton is a one-tool player so far in his career: speed. Unfortunately, his .274 OBP last season made it harder to utilize his most dominant skill. Bradley, who isn’t a speedster – but perhaps a smarter base runner – had an OBP 61 points higher than Hamilton last season. Whether you steal 50+ bags in a season or 13 for your career, being on base more often and minimizing outs in getting caught are always advantages. For his career, Hamilton safely steals 79.7% of the time. So, two out of every ten times he’s actually on base and attempting to steal, he’s making outs his team can rarely afford (any team, for that matter). The Reds scored 3.95 runs per game last season, so, clearly, offense is at a premium for them; extra outs they can ill afford for sure. Being on base at a much higher rate and knowing exactly when to run and when not to could make a sizable difference.

Hamilton’s inability to surpass the OBP Mendoza Line (.300) has also meant he’s not a reliable leadoff option. I’m not sure Bradley would bat leadoff for the Reds, but anywhere you put his bat in the lineup would be an improvement over Hamilton.

This brings us to OPS. Bradley’s .832 far outclasses Hamilton’s .563. It looks even more ghastly when you glimpse their OPS+ of 120 and 55, yes 55 (Hamilton was essentially 45% below the league average). Furthermore, they are on opposite trends. Bradley’s three-year OPS+ numbers are 68, 49, and 120. Those numbers are all encouraging, even more so when you recall his huge second half surge after being brought back up to the majors. Hamilton, on the other hand, has just taken a nose dive from 150 to 81 to 55.

In staying aware that 91 PAs of big-hitting JBJ is a small sample size, the trends are positive. Great American Ballpark is relatively similar to Fenway Park when you consider it’s hitter friendly and has dimensions that could play like Fenway, except for the Triples Triangle. I only bring this up, because Bradley hits much better at home with a 1.013 home OPS and .678 on the road (his 2015 numbers). Wouldn’t you know? Bradley has an .833 OPS at Great American Ballpark.

All in all, it seems like Bradley as the centerpiece of a deal for Chapman could work in favor of Cincinnati. Regardless of how awesome Chapman is and how much help the bullpen needs, I’ll miss JBJ being on the Sox. Then again, if we can deal from a strength and overall improve the team and maybe even avoid a third straight last-place finish, I’m all for it.

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