The issue of service time keeps being mentioned when it comes to whether the Boston Red Sox will take top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. to New York for opening day and place him on the major league roster.
Honestly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense short-term or long-term. If David Ortiz can’t start the season with the big club, then the Red Sox have a built-in reason to take Bradley Jr. and see how he does. Once Ortiz is ready, the Red Sox can determine how to handle Bradley Jr. It is pretty simple.
Boston doesn’t have the time to be patient and act like they can wait to be successful. They haven’t made the playoffs in three seasons. They lost 93 games last season with one of the biggest payrolls in baseball.
If Bradley is one of the 25 best players on the roster (and he clearly is) then the Red Sox have an obligation to field the best team that they can, regardless of agent Scott Boras or service time concerns.
The Red Sox have no one to blame but themselves for the mess that they find themselves in. If they had done a better job of drafting and developing players after 2007, this wouldn’t even be an issue. After Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury hit the scene, Boston has had a drought of position players hit their system.
Bad injuries, bad trades and bad drafting. That’s how you end up spending $142 million on Carl Crawford or $39 million on Shane Victorino.
That’s why Will Middlebrooks ascension to the majors last season was such a monumental deal to Boston’s future. Middlebrooks was the first position player since Pedroia and Ellsbury to make an immediate impact in the majors and he is someone that the team can plug into a spot for the next five seasons at a lower cost.
Middlebrooks’ initial success might also encourage the Red Sox to promote their prospects a little more aggressively and give them an opportunity to avoid the free agent mistakes that they have made recently.
Holding off promoting Bradley over service time issues? Hardly what the fans want to hear from the team’s management. If Bradley has a chance to be a free agent after 2018 instead of 2019 due to this decision, so be it — that’s the price you pay for owning the Red Sox.
Holding a prospect down for service time issues is the type of decision that the Tampa Bay Rays will have to make with their payroll restrictions.
Lost in the service time debates is the fact that the Boston pitching staff has looked really good this spring and could signal that the starting rotation is ready to pitch up to their expectations. If the Red Sox pitch well, they will be a factor in the American League East and I believe they can win the division.
The Red Sox only need to look at the example of Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels from last season as a reason to not stash Bradley Jr. in the minors.
It is admirable that Red Sox’ general manager Ben Cherington wants to protect the team’s future, but if the Red Sox are serious about winning this season, then Bradley Jr. needs to be on the roster Opening Day.