The KC Royals could use another lefthanded bat, but may have to look past a star free agent.
Any serious thoughts the KC Royals may have about Jackie Bradley Jr. could be dashed. Along with many others, Bradley’s name occasionally pops up as someone capable of satisfying the club’s well-chronicled desire for another lefthanded bat.
But if a late Wednesday report is correct, it’s unlikely the Royals will pursue him.
The notion that Bradley, an established eight-year veteran now testing free agency, could fill the Royals’ need for a lefty with some power is far from folly. He has enough punch to check Kansas City’s power box—his seven home runs in last year’s shortened season extrapolates to almost 19 for a full 162-game campaign, he hit 21 in 2019, 26 in 2016, and had at least 10 in three of his other five big league seasons.
Bradley’s career slash—.239/.321/.412—leaves room for much improvement, but his 2020 .283/.364/.450 is a new career-best. And although he produced it in a truncated season, his OPS+ (118) exceeded 100 for the first time since 2016, which happens to be his All-Star season.
He’s also a good defender and won a Gold Glove in 2018.
Considering the Royals signed Michael A. Taylor and he seems to be their first choice for center, a move to Kansas City could require a position change for career center fielder Bradley. Alex Gordon’s old spot in left is the most logical alternative; on the other hand, the best option may be to leave Bradley in center and move Taylor to left or right, with Whit Merrifield taking the corner Taylor doesn’t.
More problematic for the Royals, though, is Wednesday word from New York Post Mets’ beat writer Mike Puma that Bradley may want more than four years (Twitter link). Combine that with the fact his agent is Scott Boras, known for effectively securing the best mega-deals for his clients, and the chances of the Royals landing Bradley narrow considerably.
If a deal possibly longer than four seasons isn’t the biggest impediment to a serious Royal pursuit of Bradley, it should be. Kansas City’s recent history with big long-term pacts is mixed. While Salvador Perez has given the club more than its money’s worth during his current five-year, $52.5 million contract, Danny Duffy and Alex Gordon, recipients of a combined $137 million from their respective five and four-year deals (Duffy’s ends this season, Gordon’s expired after 2019), haven’t panned out nearly as well as the franchise hoped.
Now, with Perez preparing to play out the final year of his contract and the need to spend a lot to keep him, and considering the financial questions hovering above the Royals and the game itself, the KC Royals should be reluctant to make long-term obligations to anyone except Perez. (There will be a time for more extensions, but it isn’t now). So, if the club is interested in Bradley, which certainly makes sense, he isn’t a financial fit unless he’ll take fewer than four years.
The KC Royals may, or may not, be interested in Jackie Bradley Jr. If they are, and he wants more than a four-year commitment, the club needs to say “No.”