The familiar sight of Jackie Bradley Jr. patrolling center field for the Red Sox is now officially a thing of the past.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Bradley Jr. has agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with the Brewers with a player option after the first season. Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe was first to report the news.
The 30-year-old joins a Milwaukee outfield that already includes slick-fielding Lorenzo Cain, along with former National League MVP Christian Yelich and Avisail Garcia.
The 34-year-old Cain is coming off a 2020 in which he opted out of the season after five games, having managed just a .697 OPS the season before. Garcia, who lost 40 pounds in the offseason, struggled to a .659 OPS in his first season with the Brewers.
Bradley Jr.'s absence leaves the Red Sox with Alex Verdugo as their primary centerfielder. It's a position Verdugo admits isn't his natural spot, although he has played center more times (75 games) than either left or right.
“It’s funny because what I learned from (Bradley) is our competitive edge,” Verdugo said. “We competed against each other and that was the biggest thing that helped me. It wasn’t necessarily him telling me, ‘hey, you’ve got to set up this way or run after this ball this way.’ No. It was more of, if he gets this ball and runs it down in the gap, I got the next one. I got to get back on him.
“At one point I messed with him and said, ‘you pulled a Luis Robert on me.’ He came all the way to my position and took one of my fly balls. You watch him play every day and see how he goes about it, the effort he gives, and I think it really inspires you to give more as well. That’s the biggest thing.”
Another option will be Kiké Hernandez, who has 168 games as a centerfielder under his belt, more than any other position other than second base.
For Bradley Jr., it ends a run with the Red Sox that began with being taken in the first-round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
He comes away with two World Series rings, one Gold Glove, an American League Championship Series MVP and the title (bestowed by many) as the best defensive centerfielder in Red Sox' history.
For his Red Sox career, Bradley Jr. hit .239 with a .732 OPS with 98 homers. His final month with the team, last September, left a positive last impression, hitting .326 with a .985 OPS and five homers in 24 games.