Red Sox

Cutting Jackie Bradley now could save Red Sox $11 million, but here's why that won't happen

Cutting Jackie Bradley now could save Red Sox $11 million, but here's why that won't happen

Editor's Note: The Red Sox officially elected to tender Bradley a contract for the 2020 MLB season ahead of Monday night's 8 p.m. deadline.

Jackie Bradley isn't going anywhere, at least not today.

The Red Sox have until 8 p.m. on Monday night to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, and there's no chance Bradley is set free.

The Gold Glove center fielder is entering his final year of arbitration, where he's expected to earn about $11 million. That's a lot of money for a below-average offensive player on a team looking to cut payroll, but the reasons to maintain control of Bradley far outweigh the risks of setting him free.

For one, the only upside to walking away today is cost certainty, since it would clear that potential $11 million before it becomes a line item. But seeing as that payroll for luxury tax purposes isn't calculated until the end of the season, it would be intellectually lazy to cut that cost right now when there are other, more imaginative ways to treat a flawed but intriguing asset.

Put another way: the Red Sox didn't hire Chaim Bloom to take the path of least resistance. They hired him to be creative, and Bradley offers multiple paths for creativity.

For one, he can be traded, and the Red Sox have many, many holes to fill this winter at everywhere from starter to first base, second base, reliever, and outfield. They're also looking to replenish a farm system that was strip-mined in (a successful) pursuit of a title under Bloom's predecessor, Dave Dombrowski.

While it's fair to wonder exactly how much trade value Bradley will carry entering his age-30 season at a relatively high salary, he's still considered an elite defender at a premium position, and there's a market for that, especially since clubs like the Diamondbacks and Cubs are run by front offices that helped draft and develop him.

(One note on defense: the advanced metrics suggest Bradley regressed last year, but because publicly available defensive stats are considered flawed and unreliable, I wouldn't fixate on the fact that his defensive runs saved, for instance, dropped into negative territory.)

There's another case for tendering Bradley, too: maybe the Red Sox plan to keep him. It has been considered a fait accompli that he'll be traded this winter, and that's still how I'd expect things to play out, but a case can be made for keeping him if former MVP Mookie Betts is dealt, since the Red Sox will already be losing one impact defender and might not relish the idea of replacing two-thirds of their starting outfield.

In that case, you take the bad with the good. Bradley hasn't delivered even league average offense since his All-Star 2016 campaign, and at this point we should stop pretending he's suddenly going to discover consistency. What he can do is provide 20 homers, Gold Glove defense, and about 2 WAR at the bottom of a batting order and that's actually worth $11 million, give or take. It's certainly not beyond the pale.

And finally, we should also note that contracts tendered today aren't guaranteed. If the Red Sox find Bradley's arbitration winnings too onerous and they fail to trade him, they can release him sometime in the first 16 days of spring training and take themselves off the hook for all but one month of his salary. Not saying that's likely, but it's an available last resort.

Add it all up, and Jackie Bradley's Red Sox career isn't over yet. At least not today.

* * * * *

Bradley isn't the only arb-eligible player the Red Sox must decide on by Monday night. Catcher Sandy Leon was the most likely non-tender candidate, but the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland on Monday for minor league right-hander Adenys Bautista.

Everyone else should receive an offer. Per the invaluable projections at MLB Trade Rumors, here's where the rest of the team's arb-eligible players should fall: Betts ($27.7 million); Eduardo Rodriguez ($9.5 million), Andrew Benintendi ($4.9 million), Brandon Workman ($3.4 million), Matt Barnes ($3 million), Heath Hembree ($1.6 million), Marco Hernandez ($700,000).

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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