The Houston Astros continue to monitor the free-agent center fielder market, and have Jackie Bradley Jr. on their radar, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies are other possibilities.
Entering the offseason, Bradley Jr. was the consensus No. 2 free-agent center fielder behind George Springer. Now that the Astros have lost Springer, who is in agreement on a six-year, $150 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, they are expected to become active in addressing the outfield.
First, the Astros agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal to re-sign Michael Brantley. But there is a massive hole in center field, and Bradley Jr. would go a long ways toward filling that hole. Of course, he is not Springer. While Bradley Jr. is an elite defensive center fielder, he is nowhere near the offensive threat that Springer is at the top of the lineup.
In his eight-year career, Bradley Jr. has slashed .239/.321/.412 with 98 home runs and 376 RBI. But he had a strong offensive season in 2020, hitting .283/.364/.450 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 55 games this season with the Boston Red Sox. The question now is whether the Blue Jays would be able to fit Bradley Jr. into their payroll.
The early guess is they will be able to – just not at a deal as lucrative as Brantley’s. The Astros were aggressively trying to sign Liam Hendriks and Blake Treinen before they signed deals that pay a combined $24 million in 2021. With Brantley making $16 million in ’21, they could feasibly sign another outfielder for a deal in the $8 million annually range.
There are no signs that Bradley Jr. is close to signing, but with Springer and Brantley off the board, he could sign quickly. And with Springer gone, the Astros may have no choice but to overpay to secure their target.