Blue Jays sign JBJ to bolster outfield depth

August 9th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays have added a familiar, longtime opponent to their outfield. The club on Tuesday signed free-agent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to a one-year contract, bolstering its outfield-heavy bench with another accomplished depth option.

The club optioned infielder Otto Lopez to Triple-A Buffalo and designated righty Matt Peacock for assignment in corresponding moves. Bradley joined the Blue Jays in Baltimore prior to their Tuesday night game against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

"I'm here to help any way I possibly can," Bradley said. "I’m excited to be here. It’s a great team, a contending team and I’ve heard a lot of great things."

Bradley, 32, was released by the Red Sox on Thursday after rejoining Boston in a December 2021 trade with the Brewers. A Red Sox stalwart from 2013-20, Bradley made an All-Star team and won a Gold Glove as well as a 2018 World Series ring with Boston, also earning ALCS MVP honors that season.

Bradley is a career .228 hitter with 107 home runs in parts of 10 big league seasons, all with either the Red Sox or Brewers. He hit .210 with three homers and .578 OPS in 92 games for Boston this season. But his trademark defense remained consistent despite those offensive struggles, ranking 84th percentile in outs above average and 93rd percentile in outfielder jump, per Statcast.

“We were hoping, offensively, it was going to be a lot better than last year,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters when Bradley was released. “He had some stretches at home that were good. Obviously, he struggled toward the end. We weren’t able to get him to be consistent hitting the ball the other way. This year, there weren’t too many strikeouts. But toward the end, there were a lot of ground balls to the pull side. Offensively, it just didn’t work out.”

Said Bradley: “It’s always a work in progress. This is a game where things can be one way and then switch up another. You’re always continuing to grow.”

The Blue Jays are playing without All-Star center fielder , who has been on the injured list since Friday, nursing a sore right elbow. Though the Blue Jays hope Springer can come off the IL when eligible, the elbow is a nagging issue that’s bothered him on and off for much of this season.

The Blue Jays have used Trade Deadline acquisition (and, fun fact: Bradley's college teammate at South Carolina) Whit Merrifield in center in Springer’s absence, with Merrifield appearing at the position in all six games since arriving in Toronto, and starting there four times. That Merrifield is a natural infielder should allow Toronto to play with an outfield-heavy bench in the short-term, allowing Bradley to join depth pieces Ramiel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer, in complementing starters Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández.

Even with Merrifield in the infield, Springer's return would probably force Toronto to chose between Bradley Jr. and Zimmer, who is hitting .107 this season.

“It’s another to add to the mix," interim manager John Schneider said. "He has a great track record and is familiar with this division. I love his defensive and speed and his versatility. At this time of year, it’s always good to have as many options as you can.”