With Monday’s MLB trade deadline fast approaching, there’s been much discussion as to whether the San Francisco Giants will be buyers or sellers. They have a few rentals that could be moved, but they’re also in playoff position, and playing good baseball.
In a 60-game season, things can change pretty quickly; but according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Giants are seen as a team leaning towards buying, not selling.
#SFGiants could end up being a buyer after all the talk about pitchers they have to sell. This weekend’s games could sway them but other teams no longer see them as big seller.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 29, 2020
And one player they’re reportedly interested in? Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., as reported by Heyman.
Indians, Giants among teams believed to have interest in Jackie Bradley Jr. — but ultimately, Red Sox may hold onto him— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 30, 2020
Before you get upset at the Giants for parting ways with important prospects when they should be focusing on the future, a return haul for Bradley would likely be centered around cash. Boston traded MVP outfielder Mookie Betts over the offseason, largely because they didn’t want to pay for him in free agency, and because they could attach David Price’s large contract to the deal. The team is very intent on saving money, and with them already out of the postseason picture, they’ll be hitting the phones hard.
Bradley is on the final year of his deal, and was owed $11 million prior to the shortened season. If the Giants are willing to eat what’s left of his contract — something in the ballpark of $2 million — they could probably have Bradley for cash considerations, a player to be named later, or a low-level prospect.
So trading for Bradley probably wouldn’t hurt the team’s long-term outlook. The question is, should they be interested? Bradley was very good a few years ago, peaking in 2016 when he hit .267/.349/.486 with very good defense, earning an All-Star nod and being worth 5.3 fWAR.
But his offense promptly fell off after that year, settling into a little below average (89 wRC+ in 2017, 90 in 2018, and 90 in 2019). His defense stayed elite for a while (he won the Gold Glove in 2018), which kept him as a quality player. The defense, however, went the way of his hitting last year, which left Bradley being worth just 1.4 fWAR in a full season’s worth of playing time.
It’s been more of the same this year, as he’s hitting .253/.317/.363, and being worth -0.1 fWAR.
Yet it’s easy to see why the Giants are interested. They started the year with four right-handed hitting outfielders: Darin Ruf (who’s been OK but not great), Austin Slater (who’s been spectacular, but is injured), Hunter Pence (who’s been designated for assignment), and Jaylin Davis (who’s been optioned). They’re now giving Joey Rickard a trial run, but I don’t think anyone is particularly optimistic about that.
If they think Bradley can bounce back to being even a replacement level outfielder, he just might be an everyday player for them. And if they can identify something to fix with his swing — something they’ve had luck with in the last year — they’d have the inside track to re-signing him in the offseason.