Bradley’s Not Included: Why the Red Sox Should Wait On Jackie Bradley for 11 days.

Hunter Golden talks about the most obvious decision that seemingly not so obvious to some.

In Boston, things are never dull even when they’re supposed to be. Such is the case with Jackie Bradley Jr., who in spite of an incredibly impressive Spring Training finds himself on the outside looking in for a spot on the Red Sox Opening Day roster.

By the end of today, we’ll know whether Bradley’s envelope-pushing performance impressed the Boston brass enough to earn himself a trip north to New York, where the Red Sox will open the 2013 season this Monday. If he doesn’t crack the active roster, there’s bound to be a healthy contingency of Red Sox fans and media-types alike who’ll be none too pleased with the decision and are sure to make quite a bit of noise about it.

I’m not one of them.

The long and skinny of it is that the case for Bradley’s inclusion on the opening day roster just isn’t very strong. The assumption that somehow nine games without a player who has yet to hit above the AA level would or could make a significant difference in the outcome of the season for the Red Sox is narrative-driven drivel at it’s worst, and for a variety of reasons.

Central to the JBJ debate has been the issue of team control. If the Red Sox allow Bradley to join the team on Opening Day, his service clock would immediately start and he would become a free agent following the 2018 season. Should the Red Sox elect to wait 11 days to promote him at the beginning of the season OR send him down for 20 days at some point later in the season, Bradley’s clock would be set back one year, meaning that he’d be eligible to file for free agency following the 2019 season.

Given the likely outcomes on the field and the issues of team control that an opening day roster with Bradley included would present, the argument that he belongs in uniform when the team takes the field in Yankee Stadium on Monday seems kind of silly. A non-starter, even.

But some people just don’t want to let it go. So to illuminate the absurdity of the argument, we can start by taking a look at what that difference between Bradley and someone else would actually be over the course of those nine games.

The two projection systems that are the most pro-Bradley Jr. are – without question – Oliver and ZiPS. Oliver has him hitting .261/.336/.407 in his rookie season in 433 PA’s for a grand total of 2.1 fWAR. ZiPS has Bradley making 516 PA’s and hitting .249/.335/.367 for 2.2 fWAR. No matter which one you prefer, Bradley would be worth around .15-ish fWAR over the course of those nine games – or roughly 1/10th of a win.

Should the Red Sox decide to not start Bradley, the other two options would likely be either Daniel Nava or Ryan Sweeney. Both Oliver and ZiPS project Sweeney and Nava to be roughly 1-fWAR players next year, or at least something very close to that. Grinding that to a 9-game sample gives you around .08 wins over that period.

Between Bradley and the Nava/Sweeney tandem, we’re basically talking about a .07 fWAR difference over those nine games, something that is so statistically insignificant that it’s almost not even worth talking about – but that’s kind of my point.

Horrible applications of fWAR included, there’s really no way to measure whether Bradley will be good in the first nine games or not. The same could be said for Sweeney or Nava. What we do know, is that it’s far more likely that Bradley’s total lack of contribution to a hypothetical 2019 team over a 162 game sample size WOULD have a noticeable, even significant effect on the roster.

In knowing that, doesn’t it make the answer to this whole dilemma kind of easy? Even if we were to make insane projections and dub Jackie Bradley Jr. as the new Mike Trout, he’s still barely earn around .8 fWAR, which even then wouldn’t justify the trade off of an entire age 28 season’s worth of production. Even in the most optimistic of conditions, having Bradley break camp on the active roster just doesn’t make sense.

Simply put, 162 games in 2019 > 9 games of .07 fWAR this year – which of course is based on Bradley performing as expected, which in and of itself is a question mark. That alone should be enough to make this ‘case closed.’

The other interesting argument coming more from talk radio circles has been the ‘If he’s good, then to heck with the control, they have the money to pay him, especially with the lack of long term commitments, so they should just shut up and pay him and screw the last year of control.’ This argument also comes complete with the always popular ‘Red Sox are cheap’ undertones.

Not to be mean, but this point deserves it’s own special place in the Pantheon of bad arguments.

For one, prognosticating what the market will look like by then or what the team’s payroll will be at that point, is mostly absurd. Where the argument dives into full blown hubris is the assumption that somehow, even if the Red Sox wanted to give Jackie Bradley Jr. a record breaking contract, that he’d take it no questions asked. Even if the Red Sox fired a money cannon at his face and paid him an absurd annual salary, there’s no guarantee that super Agent Scott Boras would be interested in taking it. So again, this has nothing to do with money and everything to do with control.

And if it’s just about spending money, then one would have to think why the Red Sox (or anyone in Boston, for that matter) would care about Jackie Bradley Jr in the first place? Why not just pay every semi-interesting free agent that bungles his way onto the market and call it an offseason? After all, the Red Sox have the money, right?

That also leads one to ponder if the Red Sox did indeed have all the money talk radio seems to think they’re hiding from us all, then would the money really an issue if it’s not an issue?

Hmmm. ALIENS~!

So before we get everyone more incoherent and hysterical then we should be over a situation that’s basically the world’s best baseball problem to have, ever – here’s an idea: let’s not be so belligerent. Everyone take a breather and wait 11 days. Trust me when I say, it’ll probably be worth it. For all of us.

Categories: Daniel Nava Jackie Bradley Jonny Gomes Jr.

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

17 Responses to “Bradley’s Not Included: Why the Red Sox Should Wait On Jackie Bradley for 11 days.” Subscribe

  1. GreggB March 27, 2013 at 7:18 AM #

    Agree in general that we have to get the extra year. But I would argue for a different approach.

    It is unrealistic to think that Bradley, or any player one year out of college, is capable of performing at a high level for 162 games. He played 128 last year, and faded in the last month. The most one could realistically expect is 140-145 games at a high level at this point in his development. If you start with that assumption, the best way to optimize him would be to have him open with the team, play 80 or so games, send him down for 20 days to rest and recuperate, and then bring him back for the final 60 games. That would buy him control in 2019, which I agree we cannot give up. But optimize his contribution in 2013 as well.

  2. Hunter Golden March 27, 2013 at 1:15 PM #

    I'd argue that shaving those 9 games off the top and taking another 5-10 to rest him over the course of the season makes sense.

  3. Scott Candage March 27, 2013 at 2:11 PM #

    Hunter, I respect all your arguments here but disagree. Sending Bradley down immediately for the first 11 games of 2013 is not the only way for the Red Sox to control Bradley's 2019 rights. They can save Bradley's 2019 season by sending him down for 20 games cumulatively at any time between now and 2018. With Ortiz pretty much expected to miss some time (at least 11 days?) at the beginning of the season, Bradley in left and Gomes at DH serves the Red Sox better in those games that Ortiz will miss than does Gomes in left and somebody (Nava? Carp?) at DH.

    • Izzy March 28, 2013 at 7:19 PM #

      I think the Red Sox would put Nava in left and still DH Gomes if they sent Jackie Bradley down.

  4. Scott Candage March 27, 2013 at 2:11 PM #

    Hunter, I respect all your arguments here but disagree. Sending Bradley down immediately for the first 11 games of 2013 is not the only way for the Red Sox to control Bradley's 2019 rights. They can save Bradley's 2019 season by sending him down for 20 games cumulatively at any time between now and 2018. With Ortiz pretty much expected to miss some time (at least 11 days?) at the beginning of the season, Bradley in left and Gomes at DH serves the Red Sox better in those games that Ortiz will miss than does Gomes in left and somebody (Nava? Carp?) at DH.

    But most importantly, the initial Red Sox schedule is informative. Up to Patriots Day, the Red Sox play three games in New York, three in Toronto, three at home to Baltimore and four at home against Tampa Bay. Thirteen in a row against all the rivals in what's sure to be a tight AL East race. If the Red Sox have any hope to contend this season, these are the teams they'll need to beat. If Ortiz misses all of these games (which I think is likely), Bradley in left/Gomes at DH gives them a marginally better chance to win these games than does Gomes in left and a lesser player at DH. The off-season acquisitions of the Red Sox have shown that while they may not be in GFIN mode, they aren't in rebuilding mode either. So one can assume that they think they have a chance. Thus, they should give themselves the best chance by getting off to the best start they can. I think that occurs by starting the season with Bradley on the team.

    But if the Sox don't pitch well, it's all for naught anyway.

  5. Hunter Golden March 27, 2013 at 6:00 PM #

    All due respect, Scott – but I can't for the life of me figure out why people can't live w/ 11 days now and to just have this over and done with but are completely fine with sending Bradley down at random times over the course of the year. Not only is it *twice* the amount of time he'd have to spend not on the roster, but when would there ever be a convenient time to do it – especially if he plays well? To me, that's just kind of being reckless with his overall development as a player – and something that'd be seen as beyond blatant collusion by the MLBPA.

    To me, you call a player up when he's a.) ready to be called up and b.) can stay up one he's there. If they're that convinced that he's going to stick, then why put up these random road blocks over the course of the season? If they want to scrap the extra year of control, then that's what they'll do – but if the point is to keep that year – then keeping him off the roster for nine games is really the only serious option.

    As to who's got a better chance to help the team early in those nine games, I just don't think there's an argument to be made. .07 fWAR is basically one At-Bat. One ground ball, one pop fly, one single, one RBI, one single event. That could be made up elsewhere in the lineup, by Sweeney, by Nava or even by Bradley. It's such a case of random variation that it's almost not even worth comparing. So basically – any argument to put him on the roster for that period of time that's based on potential production is – to me – null and void. You could put virtually anyone in that spot over that period of time and anything could happen.

    That part, I feel, refines the debate to the risk/reward of having one player vs. another. If production is a wash, then it comes down to the ripple effects of having said player on a roster. With Nava there's nothing. He's on the 40-man, on the active roster and he changes nothing. If Sweeney is, you have to cut someone else from the 40-man. If Sweeney isn't, he's already said he won't accept a Minor League assignment and he'll leave the organization altogether, thus losing a depth piece. Mike Carp isn't an option because he can't throw anything thanks to his shoulder.

    By putting Bradley on the roster, you're cutting someone else and forgoing an entire year of service time for the sake of wash/negligible production. If he's as good as everyone seems to think he is, then giving up one of his peak-prime years would be silly no matter if he completely goes off in those nine games or not. Thus the Nationals waited to bring Strasburg and Harper up, the Rays are playing coy with Myers, etc. These are valuable components of putting winning rosters together, not just speculative pieces of trash we can discard whenever we're feeling down on ourselves and need a good player to give us a few games of feel-good pick-me-up.

    Part of the reason the Red Sox found themselves in this position to begin with was where they STARTED going downhill, and that was getting overly liberal with discarding casual assets that had real value. It's the difference in the margins. Thankfully, a year of peak-prime Bradley isn't the margins, it's a decision that shapes margins. So to me – for the sake of his development, the good of the team and the long term health of the organization – keeping him down for nine games is the way to go. You stand to gain the most out of that decision as opposed to mitigating damage out of the others.

    I'm not MILITANT about this, but to me it seems like a really simple decision. If he's on the roster then great. I'd trust that the Sox brass feels strongly enough to have him there and there are a lot worse things in the world than having a player with killer upside on your roster. But it'll be a bad business decision. The cost doesn't seem to warrant what they'd get out of it. I like Bradley, but I don't like nine games of him enough to give up 162 of them later on when he's fully developed.

  6. Spot March 27, 2013 at 6:02 PM #

    I think the important question is where did the front office think JBJ would be before spring training began. If they were planning on sending JBJ to AA or AAA, they shouldn't let the small sample size against uneven competition in spring training change the plan. The most important thing is to develop your players, not rush based on small sample sizes. If the front office thought JBJ would be close to ready before spring training, then putting him on the big club now and sending him down later to save service time makes sense. If they didn't plan on having JBJ in the majors this early, then give him more development time. The front office needs to have the courage of their convictions. They are building the team for the long term, not the short term and not what sells tickets. That is what got the Sox into the mess of the last couple of years.

    • Gerry March 28, 2013 at 12:13 PM #

      The most reasonable arguments about starting him in AAA: 1. His development. 2. His agent (he's not a super agent as you state, more like an anti-MLB super-manipulator, and a classic bully) and we know up front that he will NOT allow a mutually-beneficial long term contract like PD, Lester, Buch to occur. Else, Ells would retire a Red Sock. So the only way to hang onto this homegrown potential RSNational Treasure as long as possible is to not give Boras a chance to sell JBJ to the highest bidder (likely a competitor, by design) in the 2018 offseason is to delay his clock.

  7. Marty March 28, 2013 at 12:32 PM #

    One day, close to the end of his senior year at South Carolina, JBJ was sitting in his dorm room and said to himself, "I would sell my soul to make an extortionate amount of money one day." And just like that, Scott Boras appeared in a puff of smoke, management contract in hand. There is nothing wrong with a player trying to make the most money that they can. However, a player who chooses Scott Boras as an agent is sending a message. For example, it is precisely because Boras is his agent that Jacoby Ellsbury's departure is a foregone conclusion. So, given JBJ's choice of agent, I think it is perfectly fair for the Sox to send him down for the 11 days just to earn an extra year of control.

  8. Marty March 28, 2013 at 12:48 PM #

    One day, close to the end of his senior year at South Carolina, JBJ was sitting in his dorm room and said to himself, "I would sell my soul to make an extortionate amount of money one day." And just like that, Scott Boras appeared in a puff of smoke, management contract in hand. There is nothing wrong with a player trying to make the most money that they can. However, a player who chooses Scott Boras as an agent is sending a message. For example, it is precisely because Boras is his agent that Jacoby Ellsbury's departure is a foregone conclusion. So, given JBJ's choice of agent, I think it is perfectly fair for the Sox to send him down for the 11 days just to earn an extra year of control.

  9. Rick March 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM #

    So its about money… pleeaase… The kid belongs and the downside is possible free agency a year earlier. Your argument is pointless, win games, build confidence and play your best available.

  10. Rick March 28, 2013 at 4:29 PM #

    If your argument is control 6 years from now, your argument is petty. Its 2013 not 1965!!!

  11. rick March 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM #

    You're a goof, now erase this gumby!!

  12. DAVE CALLAHAB April 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM #

    WOW!!! Worrying about 2019 after 2011-12 seasons is kinda far fetched, isn't it. If the kid can help this season, let him play. Anything to rescue the team from another embarrassing year. The "wait 'til next year" attitude is over in Boston.Wewere spoiled by the Francona era.

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