Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has been released by the Red Sox, the team announced Thursday.
Bradley, a 2011 Red Sox draft pick who spent parts of eight seasons in Boston from 2013-20, departed for Milwaukee on a two-year, $24 million deal in March 2021. He then was reacquired by the Sox (along with prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton) last winter for outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
Bradley was hitting .210/.257/.321 with three homers this season.
Of the 231 players with at least 250 plate appearances this year, his .578 OPS ranked 220th. Even with typically excellent defense — he was credited with five defensive runs saved by Baseball Info Solutions and with saving three outs more than an average right fielder by Statcast — the Red Sox made the decision to move on given the depth of his offensive struggles.
The acquisitions of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who is expected to join the Sox in Kansas City Thursday, and outfielder Tommy Pham meant the Red Sox needed a 40-man roster spot.
After the Sox acquired Pham, they committed to Jarren Duran as the everyday center fielder while moving Alex Verdugo to right.
Duran, 25, is hitting .232/.280/.384 with seven stolen bases, though he is carrying a .156/.200/.267 line and 36.8 percent strikeout rate since July 3. Duran also has struggled defensively, grading as six runs below average by DRS, though Statcast suggests he has converted an average number of balls in play into outs.
Committing to Duran (for at least the next few weeks, while Kiké Hernández works his way back from a hip strain) will give the Sox a better glimpse of his potential for 2023 and beyond, while allowing him an opportunity to show whether he’s ready to make the necessary adjustments to handle big league pitching.
The decision to release Bradley is only part of what promises to be a day of numerous roster moves for the Red Sox. Righthander Kaleb Ort, who logged three innings out of the bullpen Wednesday in Houston, has been sent back to Boston, presumably optioned back to Triple A Worcester.
Righthander Matt Barnes is expected to be activated during the current road trip, though it’s not clear whether it will be Thursday in Kansas City.
In Kansas City, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said “roster configuration” was at the root of the decision.
“We have a few lefthanded-hitting outfielders. We feel like Jaylin [Davis] is doing a good job, swinging the bat well. He can play the outfield. He gives us options late in the game if there’s a righty on the mound.
“We needed a backup infielder so Yolmer [Sanchez] is here. It’s all about roster configuration with these decisions.”
Cora said Bradley was informed after Wednesday’s game in Houston. He declined to say how Bradley reacted.
The Sox, Cora said, thought Bradley would be better offensively in his return to Boston.
“He had some stretches at home that were good; obviously struggled towards the end,” the manager said. “We weren’t able to get him to be consistent hitting the ball the other way. Although this year there weren’t too many strikeouts towards the end there were a lot of ground balls to the pull side. Just offensively it didn’t work out.”
Bradley, a Gold Glove winner and the ALCS MVP in 2018, is a career .236/.315/.404 hitter in 964 games for the Sox and is considered by some the best defensive center fielder in modern team history.
The Sox believed that with a return to familiar terrain, he had a chance to rebound from his woeful 2021 season with Milwaukee (.163/.236/.261).
But while Bradley performed well at Fenway (.288/.317/.468 with excellent defense), his road struggles (.129/.196/.167) ultimately proved too great for the Sox to keep him in the lineup rather than giving Duran an opportunity.
Renfroe, meanwhile, is hitting .246/.299/.508 with 19 homers in 70 games for Milwaukee. Defensively, he’s credited with eight DRS — which would rank in the top 10 among big league outfielders — but as two outs below average by Statcast (the bottom 25 percent of outfielders). The loss of that production ultimately led the Sox to make the Pham deal.
Between the salaries of Bradley and Pham and the absence of Renfroe, this sequence of moves likely will make the difference between the Red Sox finishing the year over the $230 million luxury-tax threshold and under it — something with significant implications for the potential draft pick compensation the Sox will receive if free agents Nate Eovaldi, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez depart.
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