Interest from KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore isn’t particularly surprising given that corner outfielders Alex Gordon and Alex Rios are free-agents this winter, along with super utility man Ben Zobrist—who filled in at left field when Gordon missed time with a pulled groin during the 2015 season. The Kansas City Royals will need to acquire at least one veteran outfielder this winter.
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The KC Royals have to be interested in Bradley’s elite defense. Given that Bradley is 25-years-old, and plays center field, one has to wonder if Dayton Moore is preparing to move the soon-to-be 30-year-old Lorenzo Cain to an outfield corner if the team does acquire Jackie Bradley.
Bradley has posted an outstanding career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) of 15.5, which is comparable to Lorenzo Cain’s career mark of 17.0. Cain, however, recorded the lowest UZR/150 of his career since becoming a full-time player in 2015 at 14.5. Add in that Cain was also not even nominated for the Gold Glove in center field this season, and the Kansas City Royals might be preparing for some age-related loss of range.
Of course, the sticking point with Jackie Bradley Jr. is his offense. Though he hit an encouraging .249/.335/.498 last season with 10 home runs in 221 at bats, any interested party will have to wonder if that’s not just small-sample sized success. Over his career, Jackie Bradley Jr. has slashed an anemic .213/.290/349.
The difficulty with Bradley is that he could end up being no more than an elite defensive fourth outfielder, and the KC Royals already have that in Jarrod Dyson. The advantage with Bradley is that he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2017, and remains under control through the 2020 season. However, if Bradley hits, he could be a screaming value.
Whether 2015 is an anomaly, or a breakthrough at the plate, is something the Kansas City Royals scouts will have to determine. If the KC Royals do make a deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the possible return of Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist, since Bradley would likely be a long-term acquisition rather than someone they would expect to start in 2016.