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The top remaining free agent in baseball, Jackie Bradley Jr., has officially signed and there are winners and losers across the board.
After a slow winter in baseball, the hot stove finally heated up over the last month. Big trades and top free agents moving across the country have paid off what was a pretty boring offseason, but it seems whatever wave we were riding has finally crested.
Jackie Bradley Jr was the top remaining free agent on the market, but he has found a home for the 2021 season. The former Red Sox outfielder inked a two-year, $24 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers that has an opt-out after the first season.
With this move comes a wave of fallout for a number of different teams, both directly and indirectly involved in where JBJ eventually ended up.
MLB Rumors: Winners and losers from Jackie Bradley Jr. deal
Loser: Red Sox
Let’s just rip this bandaid off because there’s not a more obvious angle to this than how big of a loser the Red Sox come off as.
Just three years ago Boston was celebrating a World Series and flaunting an incredibly fun and young core of outfielders that seemed destined for great things. Part of that remains true: All three of the Red Sox fun outfielders are doing great things, but none of them are in Boston anymore.
Mookie Betts is a Dodger, Andrew Benintendi was traded to the Royals last month, and now Jackie Bradley Jr. is a Brewer. Of the Red Sox four outfielders who were a part of that World Series team, only J.D Martinez remains in Boston and his 2020 season left a lot to be desired.
Loser: Red Sox fans
No one is going to Roy any tears for Boston sports fans, but Red Sox fans are going to bear the brunt of whatever disaster is brewing inside Fenway.
Again, no less than three years ago the fan base was celebrating a World Series and it looked like there would be a few more in the immediate future. But the Red Sox front office has been on the warpath dismantling a World Series roster to save future pennies.
Mookie is gone, out in Los Angeles along with David Price. Benintendi and Mitch Moreland were traded away in the last calendar year, and now JBJ joins the mass exodus. All is not lost, as fans can still cling to young stars in Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, but given how the Red Sox completely scorched an incredibly talented outfield, it feels like only a matter of time before Bogaerts and Devers are gone as well.
Nothing the Red Sox have said suggests that, but fans can’t be blamed for feeling anxious.
Winner: Yankees fans
If you listen hard enough, anytime something excruciatingly bad happens in Boston you’ll hear a cackle echo from the Bronx. Next to their own success, nothing brings Yankees fans more pure uncut straight-to-the-vein joy than watching the Red Sox crash and burn.
While the Red Sox were dismantling its World Series core, the Yankees were busy bolstering its roster to ensure another shot at a title isn’t squandered. Corey Kluber was brought in from Cleveland to give the Yankees a Cy Young ace to leads its starting rotation, and DJ LaMahieu was brought back on a six-year, $90 million deal.
So as the Red Sox pinched pennies to save a future buck, the Yankees handed out over $100 million to add two massive pieces to a championship puzzle. Sure, Boston countered with the veteran additions of Martin Gonzalez and Kiké Hernández as well as the return of Alex Cora as manager after a year-long sabbatical following his involvement in the Astros cheating scandal, but try telling a Yankees fan that’s somehow better than what happened this winter in New York.
Boston was already a long shot to compete in the AL East in 2021, but it seems all but certain that the Red Sox will be an afterthought once again come October.
Winner: The Brewers
Few divisions in baseball feel as wide open as the NL Central. The Chicago Cubs are down on their luck, the St. Louis Cardinals added Nolan Arenado this offseason, and even the Cincinnati Reds could be a sleeper pick to make waves.
That means the Milwaukee Brewers, who have quietly been a force in the Central over the last handful of years, have a clear path to potentially be a surprise contender in 2021.
Milwaukee’s biggest addition before adding Bradley was poaching Kolten Wong from the Cardinals. Lorenzo Cain is dealing with an injury, which complicates things in the early part of the season, but when things tighten up in the pennant race the Brewers could have one of the best lineups in the National League.
If everyone can stay healthy — which is a big if — Milwaukee could go to battle in October with a lineup of JBJ, Cain, Wong, Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura and Luis Urias. Add to that a rotation that has a bevy of sleeper stars and a bullpen that still features Josh Hader at the end of games and the Brewers are a team that deserves to be taken very seriously.
Loser: Teams that didn’t snag Jackie Bradley Jr. on a team-friendly deal
Add another ‘L’ for the Red Sox here, but other teams deserve some blame for this one too.
Boston no doubt dragged its feet with JBJ, as they had the inside track to give him the type of deal they were making moves to be in a position to hand out. Bradley Jr was not going to get a monster contract extension from the Red Sox, but the idea that they couldn’t have matched the two-year, $24 million deal he got from Milwaukee is laughable.
But don’t let the Astros, Mets, or even the Yankees off the hook either. In fact, don’t let any contending team off the hook after seeing the deal that JBJ signed with the Brewers. The Mets passed on both George Springer and Trevor Bauer due to their prices being too high, but if a cash-saving deal is what the Mets wanted, why didn’t they make the deal with Bradley?
Ditto for the Astros, who need to fill the hole left by Springer and Bradley would have fit the bill without breaking the bank. The Yankees spent boatloads of cash this winter, and while there’s less room in the outfield for JBJ in the Bronx than there is elsewhere in the league, paying $24 million (with an opt-out after 2021) to twist the knife in the heart of Red Sox fans seems like a bargain.
Bradley still has to live up to expectations in Milwaukee, but if he stays healthy and plays to his abilities the $24 million price tag is going to look like an absolute steal, and the teams who thought that price too expensive will look absolutely foolish.