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Here's the Jackie Bradley Jr. question, plain and simple:
Are you willing to give up a full season in 2019 for nine games in 2013?
That's it, nothing more and nothing less. The idea that the Boston Red Sox should punt a full year of club control over what sure looks to be a potential star in what will be the absolute prime of his career in exchange for nine games is, of course, as foolish and short-sighted as it sounds.
First: I believe Bradley is going to be a terrific major league player. Do I think that will be the case in 2013? Probably not, for every Mike Trout in 2012 there are dozens of Mike Trouts in 2011. But Bradley is, at age 22 (he'll turn 23 on April 19) the very best option in left field for this team. That's closing in on indisputable by any standard, and it's becoming increasingly obvious that Bradley will be on the Opening Day roster. Presumably Bradley will start in left field, with Jonny Gomes moving to DH in place of David Ortiz (who was shut down for five to seven days nearly three weeks ago).
OK. That makes plenty of baseball sense. But it makes very little organizational sense. If you wait until April 12 to promote Bradley to the 25-man roster you don't lose what could, if you believe Bradley is indeed the real deal, be a precious year of service time.
WEEI: The Case Against Jackie Bradley
This was the exact argument I made a month ago. Keep him down in the minors for eleven days, gain an extra year of control. It's the move that makes the most business sense. However, there's one little caveat that has made this decision a little more tougher and that much more interesting.
Jacoby Ellsbury jammed his ankle three days ago by lunging awkwardly back to first on a pickoff attempt. He's been out on the lineup nursing it back to health. Bradley is playing center field and leading off in Spring Training. If this injury lingers, which considering who this is and what body part hurts is likely to happen, the Sox have no option but to start Bradley and then if Bradley is as good as we think he is, try and lock him up a couple years later like the Sox did with Jon Lester & Dustin Pedroia.
This will lead to one ironic twist for Ellsbury. Having taken Red Sox nation by storm in 2007 he single handedly killed Coco Crisp's tenure as a member of that team. It went from "Coco's Better!' to "Coco Who?". Bradley has the chance to do this to Ellsbury's Red Sox career. It won't be an easy turn as Jacoby has his fans, especially with the Pink Hats. It could very well divide the fan base further about what to do with Jacoby.
Fenway Park could suddenly turn into a WWE match with Ellsbury playing the part of John Cena, the likeable company guy that the kids and ladies love and Bradley being CM Punk, the player who the diehards think is better and not getting the chance he deserves. Sadly Jacoby's name isn't a chantable name otherwise picture the back and forth chants the WE LOVE JACOBY/TRADE HIM NOW take over Fenway every time he steps at the plate. Ellsbury better hope this ankle heals fast otherwise he could be that much more expendable this season.
Rest of the Links: Globe: Lackey's feeling good | Herald: Lackey takes it day by day | Roster questions need answers | Nava set to hit Opening | CSNNE: Minor step forward for Lackey | Sox pitchers pick up pace | Sox release Overbay, Yankees sign him | WEEI: Sox still deciding on Bradley, other spots |