One of the highlights of the offseason baseball calendar comes when agent Scott Boras holds court with reporters during the Winter Meetings to discuss his clients, often employing unexpected and elaborate metaphors. On Tuesday, he did not disappoint when discussing his client, longtime Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
While the cancellation of the Winter Meetings this year prevented Boras from holding court in customary fashion, he nonetheless met remotely with reporters Tuesday afternoon. His characterization of the market for Bradley was novel.
“JBJ is kind of the PBJ of the major leagues. He’s sweet, smooth, and spreads it all over and covers it well,” Boras said. “What Jackie does in a defensive runs-saved environment has been popular.”
Bradley led MLB in the Statcast-generated defensive metric of Outs Above Average, getting credit for recording seven more outs on balls hit to the outfield than an average center fielder in 2020. According to Defensive Runs Saved, Bradley was five runs better than the average center fielder, eighth best in the majors.
Boras suggested Bradley’s offensive performance in his age-30 season in 2020 — career highs in average (.283) and OBP (.364) that were fueled in part by a career-high willingness to hit the ball to center and left field, along with a .450 slugging mark and seven homers in 55 games — likewise has made him a popular target in free agency.
“I think the fact that he has really illustrated a dimension of a different approach, particularly going the other way, his OPS was well over .800, that seems to be very attractive to a lot of clubs,” said Boras. “They ask a lot of questions about it, what adjustments he’s made.
“When you have a world champion, someone who has done what Jackie’s done, being as young as he is, being as efficient as he is, as great of a teammate as he’s been, he’s received a lot of attention and we expect something very grand here going forward.”
Might that something grand come from the Red Sox?
“Certainly we’ve had the discussions. They’ve certainly expressed the interest and let us know that he’s a clear part of the Red Sox’ support hose, let’s put it that way,” said Boras. “We know that he’s had great success there, he’s a winning player, and the Red Sox’ intentions are to advance their winning ways, certainly beyond what happened in ’20. As with most free agent players, we get notice of interest, then we’ll wait and see how the market unfolds moving forward.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Sox manager Alex Cora discussed his potential outfield alignment during an appearance on MLB Network Radio.
Alex Verdugo, Cora suggested, could move to center in Bradley’s absence.
“We do believe that he’s athletic enough to do that,” Cora said. “He’s got the instincts. His first step is pretty good. He can do it.”
For now, the Sox have Verdugo, Andrew Benintendi, and newly signed Hunter Renfroe as outfielders.
“That would be the alignment: Benny in left, Alex in center and Hunter in right. That’s a pretty solid outfield,” Cora said. “But obviously the season doesn’t start tomorrow. Let’s see what the offseason brings and what Chaim [Bloom] and the group decide to do. But we do feel comfortable with Alex playing center field.”
Cora also said lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez “is going after it” as he returns from missing last season with a heart condition related to having COVID-19.
“He’s started playing catch,” Cora said. “As of now, he’s on pace to be ready for the start of the season. Obviously, we’re not going to push him. We’ve got to be very careful. It’s something very serious. I’m glad that he’s upbeat and going through his workouts as normal as possible.”
Cora was less specific about Chris Sale, who had Tommy John elbow surgery nearly nine months ago.
“I hate putting timetables, he’ll be ready for X day during the summer,” Cora said. “One thing for sure, he’s progressing the right way and he’s upbeat,” Cora said.