BOSTON (CBS) — Pretty much the only spring training story line that generated any buzz at all around the Boston Red Sox centered around rising young star Jackie Bradley Jr.
The 22-year-old had the stats to make the big league club, and many fans argued that the team had to start the season with him in the majors, especially with David Ortiz out of action.
There was much more to the argument, though, as the Red Sox could have guaranteed having Bradley under contract for a full extra season (2019) if they kept him in the minors for the first 11 days of the season.
That debate is relevant again today, because it is that 11th day of the season. So it’s worth asking the question: Was it worth it?
Bradley had an outstanding debut in Yankee Stadium, showing incredible patience at the plate in earning three walks — including two against CC Sabathia — and driving in his first run. In the next game, he picked up his first hit and another RBI, and he went 1-for-4 with an RBI in the series finale in New York.
Since then, though, things haven’t been good for Bradley at the dish. He’s 1-for-15 in the two series since, with his on-base percentage dropping down to .313 after Thursday night’s 0-for-2, a night when manager John Farrell lifted the young outfielder in favor of Jonny Gomes in a 3-2 game in the seventh inning.
Through the first nine games, Bradley is batting .120 with a .473 OPS, and he also made an error in left field that cost the Red Sox a run on Wednesday.
The argument after spring training for keeping Bradley focused on how he’d help the team win, an issue that’s plagued the Red Sox in April for the past four years. The case could be made that Bradley was a big part of the win on opening day, but other than that, he’s had little effect on the team’s 5-4 record.
Of course, the Red Sox can still guarantee having Bradley under contract in 2019 by sending him down to the minors for 20 consecutive days this year. And with David Ortiz making a rehab start in Pawtucket on Thursday, combined with Bradley’s slow start, making that move seems like an easy one for Farrell and Ben Cherington.
While that seems on the surface to be a simple fix, there’s no telling how a midseason demotion to the minors will affect Bradley’s confidence. It’s a very different scenario from having him start the year in Pawtucket and keeping him hungry for the big leagues.
What’s clear with Bradley, even in the short window of time we’ve watched him in the majors, is that he looks like he’s going to be very good. Right now, though, he’s just not, and the Sox are going to have to send him down — a move they could have avoided in the first place by just starting the kid in Triple-A, where he had never played before.
So, was it worth it?