MILWAUKEE -- Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will exercise a player option in his contract to return to the Brewers for 2022, according to reporting from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, but Avisaíl García has declined his half of a mutual option to test the free-agent market, the club announced on Friday. The team has not officially announced Bradley's decision.
In addition, catcher Luke Maile and right-hander Eric Yardley have elected free agency.
García, 30, initially signed a two-year deal with the Brewers that had a club option for 2022, but per the terms of the deal, it converted to a mutual option by virtue of his plate appearances over the past two seasons. García earned those plate appearances while hitting a team-best and career-high 29 home runs in '21 with a career-high 86 RBIs.
García joins a list of free-agent outfielders that includes the versatile Kris Bryant and Chris Taylor, plus Starling Marte, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto and others.
Bradley is a finalist for another Rawlings Gold Glove Award, but he performed so poorly at the plate during his debut season in Milwaukee that it was widely seen as inevitable that he would pick up the $9.5 million option for 2022 rather than take a $6.5 million buyout and go back into free agency.
Bradley, 31, was an All-Star for the Red Sox in 2016, won a Gold Glove Award in '18 and had one of his stronger offensive seasons during the shortened '20 season, when he posted a career-best .364 on-base percentage with an .814 OPS. But he lasted late in free agency before signing with the Brewers in February on a deal that paid $6.5 million for ’21 and included a player option for ’22, plus a $12 million mutual option for ’23 with an $8 million buyout.
Those future earnings were too much to risk on the free-agent market after Bradley never got going in a Brewers uniform in 2021. He slashed .163/.236/.261 while playing extensively -- 428 plate appearances in 134 games -- because of his sensational defense and injuries to other Milwaukee outfielders, including Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Bradley became the ninth AL/NL player in the past 100 seasons to get at least 400 plate appearances with an OPS south of .500 -- the first since the Mariners' Mario Mendoza in 1979. The only player in the past 100 seasons with a lower batting average over 400-plus plate appearances in a season was Adam Dunn, who hit .159 for the White Sox in 2011.
Yet, Bradley did contribute at times for the Brewers, who carried him on their National League Division Series roster largely for what he provided on defense, with 12 defensive runs saved in 915 1/3 innings in the outfield. His fellow NL finalists for the Gold Glove Award in center field are Harrison Bader of the Cardinals and Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates.
With the options decisions made, the Brewers’ outfield picture for 2022 includes Yelich in left field (set to earn $26 million as his seven-year contract extension kicks in), Cain in center (set to earn $18 million in the final season of his five-year contract), and either Bradley or 27-year-old Tyrone Taylor -- or a platoon of both, as Taylor bats right-handed and Bradley left-handed -- in right field.
Taylor hit 12 home runs in 273 plate appearances during the 2021 season, and Brewers officials including manager Craig Counsell have indicated they believe he is ready for a more prominent role.