Royals sign JBJ to Minor League deal

March 2nd, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Faced with thin outfield depth because of injuries early in Spring Training, the Royals signed to a Minor League deal with an invite to big league camp on Wednesday.

The former All-Star will join the team later this week and begin competing for a roster spot. Bradley, who turns 33 next month, played eight seasons with Boston and won a World Series as the Red Sox’s starting center fielder in 2018. He played for the Brewers in ’21 and went back to Boston for the start of ’22 before finishing the year with Toronto.

Bradley has a career .227/.306/.386 slash line, and while he’s never been a consistent offensive threat, he can play Gold Glove-caliber center field. His 74 defensive runs saved and 58 outs above average place Bradley in the top 10 among outfielders dating to his 2013 debut (Statcast was introduced in ‘15).

That’s exactly what the Royals need.

The club had two unfortunate injuries happen at the start of spring when outfielders Drew Waters and Diego Hernandez went down with a left oblique strain and dislocated right shoulder, respectively.

Waters was competing for the everyday center-field job this spring, which now is Kyle Isbel’s job to lose. Hernández, 21, hasn’t yet played above Double-A, but he is on the 40-man roster and would have been able to play center field in the Majors if the Royals got in a bind. Brewer Hicklen, who played center field in Triple-A last year, is also out with a right elbow strain.

Behind Isbel, the Royals have Nate Eaton and Samad Taylor on the 40-man who both can play center field, and while Eaton’s versatility might earn him a roster spot, Taylor likely needs more time developing in Triple-A. Kansas City is also comfortable putting Dairon Blanco and Tyler Tolbert out there, but they’re not on the roster and likely wouldn’t be viable everyday options in the Majors if another injury occurred.

Once Hernandez went down, the Royals began exploring options to bring outfield depth to camp. Bradley is a solid veteran fallback and will compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster with right field currently up for grabs, as well as a bench spot.

Because Bradley was an XX(B) Major League free agent, he gets one opt out per the Basic Agreement. That will be on March 25, according to a source, which is five days before Opening Day.