Red Sox release of Jackie Bradley Jr. is a sign of tough times to come

The Red Sox seem to be using the term “roster setup” a lot these days.

After they released Jackie Bradley Jr., the only above-average defensive outfielder on their active roster, manager Alex Cora consulted WEEI and said the decision was about “roster configuration.”

Ridiculous as it sounds, the fact is the Red Sox decided Jaylin Davis, a 28-year-old with just 33 career major league games and a .247 batting average at Worcester, would help them more than Bradley, a Glove center. Gold. Fielder who, despite his struggles on the road, is hitting .288 with 14 doubles in 45 games at Fenway Park.

The movement is hard to understand, but it does bring up some important talking points nonetheless.

Was roster configuration at the core of the decision to trade Christian Vazquez to the Astros, a team the Red Sox will surely have to overcome if they’re going to make a Cinderella run to capture the American League pennant?

Be realistic.

That decision was about racking up prospects, and not the elite ones, but deep guys who will fall into the teens and 20s of the Red Sox prospect rankings.

It’s the same reason they acquired Bradley in the first place. The Brewers were so interested in getting rid of his salary that they brought in a couple of fringe-level prospects to pull it off.

The idea of ​​improving the outfield defense was a good one; the Red Sox were terrible at catching the ball last year and it was a noticeable problem through October. The problem, of course, is that the Sox had to get rid of Hunter Renfroe in the process and never replaced his offensive production.

As of this writing, the Sox rank 29th in WAR (0.5) and 25th in OPS (.662) from outfield in 2022.

Roster configuration hasn’t exactly been the Sox’s strong point.

The problems at first base have been well documented: His .623 OPS at first base is worse than every team except Ben Cherington’s Pirates, who are on a complete rebuild, and the problems are only going to get worse. safety this offseason, when they’re set to lose Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Kiké Hernandez, Kevin Plawecki, Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha and Matt Strahm, among others, to free agency.

The pipeline of prospects Chaim Bloom has been trying to build is getting deeper, but he has few players who look like impact players in 2023. First baseman Triston Casas is the only one we can safely predict will make substantial contributions next season. .

Which means this winter, “template setup” will once again be a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot about.

Bradley deserved better than getting his release in August, just after the trade deadline, even though he’ll likely sign up for a contending team that needs a defensive outfielder and only requires the league’s minimum salary to do so.

He was an exemplary citizen ever since the Red Sox made him the 40th pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He was a regular at charity events, an easy fan favorite, a dazzling sensation in center field and a Streak hitter who looked like Bryce Harper for three weeks each year, including in the 2018 American League Championship Series, when he earned MVP honors for his work. against the Astros.

It’s unclear what happened to him the past two years, when he’s been among the worst offensive regulars in the game. Still, at a time when defense is valued more than ever, there’s a roster spot for Bradley on just about any team in the majors.

But not the Red Sox, who evidently think they’re good enough without him.

It’s another blow to the fan base, which has seen so many favorites walk out the door since 2020. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt join Bradley and Vazquez, among others who won a title for the Red Sox. of 2018 but they are no longer in the organization.

Teams can’t stay together forever. That’s the business. But this week’s decisions to move on Vazquez and Bradley are just the beginning of what could be a complete makeover for the franchise over the next six months.

The window of opportunity to compete for this team is closing. And with him, some of the Red Sox’s most beloved players are gone.

Difficult times are ahead.

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