FORT MYERS, Fla - Is Jackie Bradley over his hitting woes, and if so, now what?
Bradley has lost his starting center field job to Mookie Betts. He’s now projected to head to Pawtucket as a result of hitting .198 for the 2014 season despite playing Gold Glove center field and making some of the toughest plays look routine.
The Red Sox have no room in the outfield with Shane Victorino in right, Hanley Ramirez in left, Rusney Castillo in limbo, and Allen Craig and Daniel Nava off the bench. Nava is the only lefthanded bat in the outfield and that’s where Bradley could benefit. The Red Sox could thin out the outfield by dealing Craig somewhere before the start of the season, but if that doesn’t happen, or if Castillo doesn’t start on the disabled list because of time missed with an oblique strain he seems to have recovered from, then it looks like Bradley is headed to Triple A.
Bradley has changed the way he swings to a more level/downward plane from the uppercut swings he took a year ago.
“A work in progress,” said Bradley.
If he has to go back to Pawtucket, he has the right attitude, knowing last year was an offensive disaster. It may have been an aberration because Bradley has hit well at every level he’s been at.
Don’t think the scouts who watch Bradley on an everyday basis haven’t noticed. Now the guy who was just the great defender may be able to hit as well and suddenly there’s interest on the trade front. He’s become a chip again. But would the Red sox deal him?
Bradley was hitting .333 in 30 at-bats entering Monday’s action. And yes, we’ve been taught not to go crazy over spring training stats. But when you hit less than .200 in a regular season, there’s reason for optimism. Here’s the other thing - do you really want Bradley being a fill-in at the other three outfield positions? He can play them and plays them well. But this guy is a center fielder. One of the best.
Here are your questions:
How many second base prospects are the Red Sox going to get before Dustin Pedroia feels the heat?
NC: When you’re under contact until 2021 I’m not sure you feel the heat. He has his own personal pride and wants to get back to what he was, and I believe he will. I’m curious to see how it all unfolds. Pedroia is the best second baseman (defensively) in the game, so nobody is going to surpass him that way. If you think Moncada is the be-all, end-all then eventually you could deal Pedroia I suppose, because his contract is very team-friendly. That decision appears to be at least two years away as Moncada develops.
What ever happened to Joe Morgan?
NC: He’s living in Walpole and doing well. He had his Morgan Magic run. One of my favorite managers to cover. His “hunches” were usually right on the money. Really knew baseball and didn’t need stats to lead him by the hand.
With the Phillies now scouting Garin Cecchini do you think a non-Betts/Swihart trade for Coles Hamels is possible? Do you think a Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini, Joe Kelly, and Deven Marrero for Cole Hamels trade is reasonable?
Jim Satko, Westford
NC: Jim, I don’t think the Phillies are scouting Cecchini. In fact I know their evaluators have concerns about Cecchini’s third base play and his ability to convert to the outfield. His bat is of interest to a few teams, but from the people I deal with the Phillies, there’s not a huge interest there. Not sure where that news came from. As far as your trade proposal, I probably wouldn’t include both pitchers, but just one but you’d have to come up with another prominent prospect positional player like a Rafael Devers or Margot. But as we speak, they’re still all about Swihart.
How do you see the outfield settling? Most likely to be traded?
NC: Certainly Allen Craig is the most likely to be traded. Whether he will or not remains to be seen since he does offer protection for Mike Napoli at first and you can also DH him when David Ortiz needs a day off.
Does the signing of Yoan Moncada make the Red Sox less reluctant to include Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts in a trade for Cole Hamels? Or alternatively do they keep everyone, wait for the next offseason and try to sign an elite free agent pitcher (David Price, Johnny Cueto, or Jordan Zimmerman) and fill the back of the rotation with one of the young pitchers (Owens, Rodriguez, Barnes, Johnson)?
Kevin, Lakeland, Fla.
NC: I think it all depends on how they come out of the chute this year. If their rotation is of concern, I’m sure they’ll try to make a deal for one of the elite guys (if Hamels is still available) and give up a few prospects to do it. If not, then yes, they’ll use that money and try to secure one of the free-agents. All of the guys you mentioned will be super expensive and require six or seven year layouts. Will they do it? They went so far n Lester ($135 million), their own guy, so I’m wondering if they’d go well beyond that for those three. A guy like Jeff Samardjzia might be less expensive, but he may have a great year and thrust himself into that price range.
The Red Sox need an ace, is Matt Cain available? He had a down year last year obviously with injuries and performance but has historically been very good to great.
NC: I would doubt the Giants would deal him. Tricky one in that he’s coming off an unhealthy year so you have to watch to see if he’s the old Matt Cain. If he is, Giants hold on to him. If he isn’t the old Cain then why would you want him at that salary?
Were you surprised the Sox wouldn’t go four years/$75m for James Shields especially with the two year opt out? I like Joe Kelley predicting he will win the Cy Young. I would like to hear that from Buchholz.
NC: I was surprised. He would have been a nice piece for them and for any team. Such a leader, durable, dependable. A class act all the way. You can debate whether he’s a No. 1. If he isn’t, he’s pretty close. Kelly is outspoken and you love that attitude. He needs to stay healthy and make 30 starts first. Buchholz wouldn’t say something like that. He is what he is. And he can be very good.
It seems to me that the Sox should make a move for Cole Hamels. Here’s my suggestion: Trade Jackie Bradley Jr., throw in and eat Shane Victorino’s contract. Add one mid to low level pitching prospect and an Major League ready infielder, Garin Cecchini. Why wouldn’t this work?
Jim, Hamilton, N.J.
NC: Your proposal is an easy one for the Red Sox, tough one for the Phillies. What you have to do is put yourself in the same shoes as the Phillies, not the Red Sox. They have the elite pitcher. That’s their biggest trade chip. They may want even more with Cliff Lee off the market. As I pointed out before, don’t think they’re big Cecchini fans, Victorino does nothing for a rebuilding team (except to take on his money to offset some of Hamels’). A mid to low level prospect? You need to be thinking Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez. I can see Jackie Bradley Jr., now that he’s hitting. But put yourself in Ruben Amaro’s shoes. He may lose his job anyway, but if he made a deal where he got Boston’s lesser minor leaguers, don’t think that goes over too well.
I expect any day now we will start to hear rumblings from David Ortiz regarding his contract status. I’m betting the Red Sox would like to see him have a good season and go out graciously. How do you see Ortiz’s status playing out over the next 6-8 months?
Mike, Henderson, Tenn.
NC: I’d be surprised if David started mouthing off about his contract. I’ve talked to him quite a bit and he’s never brought it up. He’s really year-to-year now and he feels his body getting tired and old so I don’t think he wants to make any big commitment. The contract he has with the options suits him fine. As for as having a good year and going off into the sunset, I don’t think the team wants that at all. If he’s still a 30/100 force, why would you want him to leave especially if the people you think can replace him can’t reach those numbers? Ownership loves Ortiz. He can stay for as long as he wants. And he’ll only stay if he’s at the top of his game.
Joel Hanrahan, signed to a minor league deal with the Tigers last year, needs a second Tommy John surgery. The Tigers release him. Who pays for the surgery? Is there insurance on ballplayers that covers this?
Jimbojay, Vienna, VA
NC: Joel’s surgery was paid for by the Tigers since he was under contract with them. And yes, mucho insurance for these guys. Obviously insurance costs are high, but it does protect the teams.