BOSTON (CBS) -- The Red Sox were busy Wednesday night trying to beat the buzzer before the doors slammed on Major League Baseball. Just before the CBA expired and owners locked out players, Chaim Bloom made a flurry of moves, including a trade for outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
That trade sent Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee for Bradley Jr. and a pair of infield prospects. Those prospects -- 2021 third-round pick Alex Binelas and shortstop David Hamilton -- are the main pieces of the swap. We all know that Bloom loves to build his prospect pool, and he did just that by cashing in on Renfroe's solid season in 2021.
Bloom essentially traded out Renfroe's bat and arm for Bradley Jr.'s glove to land those prospects. But the Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer is also excited when it comes to thinking about the team's outfield defense in 2022. (You know, as long as there is a season.)
"True center fielders are hard to find, and we feel that we have two of the best at that position," Bloom said of pairing Bradley Jr. with Enrique Hernandez. "What [Bradley Jr.] brings to our roster is a very hard thing to find. Obviously, moving Hunter leaves a hole, but we felt having two premium defensive center fielders is a huge boost to our roster and we're also excited about the minor leaguer players that we got. So we felt this was something that made sense for us right now and has a chance to pay dividends down the road."
Bradley Jr. played 89 games in center for the Brewers last season, but also saw time at the corner spots; 17 games in right field and 14 in left. Bloom said that he could envision Bradley Jr. and Hernandez sharing the outfield, but the deal came together quickly and that hasn't really been discussed. It will ultimately be up to manager Alex Cora, but Bloom said that adding Bradley Jr.'s slick glove to the mix is a luxury for Boston.
"We play in a park where we feel you need two center fielders to cover our center-right, so just having options," he said. "Jackie is one of the best -- especially one of the best in this ballpark -- that has ever done it. So to have him back in this ballpark, the more the merrier in terms of premium outfield defenders here."
But given the season that Bradley Jr. had at the plate in 2021, with a gruesome .163/.236/.261 slash line over 134 games, it will be hard to justify playing him every day unless he really turns it around now that he's back in Boston. He was never a great hitter over his seven years with the Red Sox, though he did show occasional flashes with the lumber.
"We recognize that it was a tough year for him, but I think that we all know the ability that he has is better than what he showed this year. I think coming back here, we will be able to get him back to a lot of what he used to do," Bloom said confidently. "We know that defense has always been his calling card, but he's a better hitter than what he showed this past year. We're optimistic we will be able to get him back to something resembling who he was here for so long."
If the Sox are able to re-sign Kyle Schwarber, they have the option of moving Alex Verdugo to right and letting Schwarber play left, with Hernandez in center and Bradley Jr. available whenever anyone needs a day off. Hernandez could also move to second base to get Bradley Jr.'s glove in the mix.
Bradley Jr. will make $9.5 million in 2022, with Boston holding a team option for $12 million for the 2023 season.
Again, the biggest part of the deal is really the prospects. Binelas is a corner infielder out of Louisville whom Bloom said had "special power" from the left side of the plate. He played in Single-A last season, slashing .314/.379/.636 over 29 games. After hitting 33 homers in 111 games at Louisville, Binelas hit 11 in 29 games in the minors in 2021.
Hamilton was a 2017 eighth-round selection out of Texas who is best known for his slick glove in the middle of the infield and speed on the base paths. He split time between Single-A and Double-A in 2021 and had a decent season at the plate, slashing .258/.341/.419. Bloom called Hamilton a "very exciting player to add to our system" on Wednesday.
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