The news appeared late Wednesday night, and it left fans scrambling for blue checkmarks: Were the Red Sox really bringing back Jackie Bradley Jr.?
Indeed they were. Before the clock struck midnight on the old CBA and a lockout began, the Red Sox traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Bradley and a pair of prospects.
It turns out that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom didn't necessarily see this one coming, either.
"This was one that a few days ago I would not have thought would have been on our radar, but as things developed over the course of the last few days, something we felt made sense," Bloom said. "Obviously everybody here knows Jackie very well. True center fielders are hard to find and we feel we now have two of the best at that position."
"So what he brings to our roster is a very hard thing to find. Obviously moving Hunter leaves a hole, but we felt having two premium defensive center fielders is a huge boost to our roster and we're also excited about the minor league players we got, so we felt this was something that made sense for us right now and also has a chance to pay dividends down the road."
Bradley is what he is at this point: a gifted defensive outfielder who has downgraded from streaky hitter to offensive liability. He hit just .163 last year in Milwaukee and in a perfect world would be a fourth outfielder in Boston, though his glove certainly plays in right or center if he can hit a little.
That's why it's important to note that this was a deal about bolstering the farm system. Much like last year's acquisition of reliever Adam Ottavino in a salary dump from the Yankees that included minor league right-hander Frank German, the Red Sox used their financial resources to buy a pair of promising farmhands.
Infielders David Hamilton and Alex Binelas rated as Milwaukee's 16th- and 17th-best prospects, respectively, per MLB.com. The former was an eighth-round pick in 2019 who reached Double-A in his pro debut this year while stealing 52 bases. The latter went in the third round of of the 2021 MLB Draft out of Louisville and boasts impressive power, homering nine times in 36 games between Rookie ball and Low-A.
"Both of these guys are really interesting," Bloom said. "Alex Binelas is their third-round pick this past year. Lefthanded hitter with power, plays both infield corners, but the bat is really his calling card. A good hitter with really special power. Obviously, it's just early in his professional journey, but he had a tremendous debut and really showed a lot in his acclimation to pro ball and a really nice power lefthanded bat to bring into the system.
"David Hamilton has premium speed, really good middle infielder, plays a good shortstop. Interesting trajectory – highly touted high school player, went to the University of Texas, had a tough injury and recovered from it, kept his speed and has great speed and athleticism. Very exciting player to add to our system."
Bradley is owed $12 million this year, while Renfroe projected to make about $7.5 million in arbitration, so the Red Sox are assuming salary. In the long-term, the deal will be judged on the prospects. In the short term, the Red Sox hope they can unlock the hitter that made Bradley an All-Star starter in 2016 and an ALCS MVP in 2018.
"We're certainly optimistic," Bloom said. "This is home for Jackie and recognizing that it was a tough year for him, I think we all know the ability he has is better than what he showed this year. I think coming back here, we'll be able to get him back to a lot of what he used to do.
"Defense has always been his calling card, but we know he's a better hitter than what he showed this past year and we're optimistic we're going to be able to get him back to something resembling who he was here for so long."