In a month where Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has made roster moves at about the same rate as the rising of the sun from the east, he made the most noteworthy move of August to date Monday afternoon. Struggling centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was sent to Triple A Pawtucket, while No. 1 prospect Mookie Betts rode inbound on the Lou Merloni Express to take Bradley’s place.
While the move made shockwaves, it shocked very few. Bradley, despite playing a Gold Glove-caliber center in 112 games for the Red Sox in 2014, struggled mightily at the plate, hitting just .216 with a .578 OPS, one home run, and 30 RBI. Meanwhile, Betts had been playing great baseball since being sent back to the PawSox after a cup of coffee with the big club.
A case can be made as to why Bradley shouldn’t be with the varsity and Betts should. One is mastering minor league pitching, while another is struggling to adjust to major league pitching.
At the same time, what good does it do Bradley sending him to Pawtucket for a couple of weeks? Yes, the offensive struggles are well-documented. He’s fought himself at the plate all season, his latest setback an 0-for-35 streak in which he struck out 18 times. But before that, he had been swinging a good bat for the better part of six weeks. He was finding holes, going the other way. Signs were being shown that he was making the adjustment, that he had weathered the storm that was the first half of the season, in which he struggled just to stay above the Mendoza Line.
Defensively, the 24 year old has not only looked like a major league centerfielder, he’s looked like an established veteran. It’s not a case similar to fellow rookie Xander Bogaerts, who has not only looked lost at the plate, but in the field as well.
Meanwhile, what’s wrong with Betts staying in Triple A all season? Let him continue to get hits. Let him continue to rake. And if (or when) Triple A pitching catches up to the 21 year old who is in just his second pro season and has just 45 games and a little more than 200 plate appearances under his belt at Triple A, let him make adjustments and work out of it. If he’s ready and there’s a spot for him in late September or early 2015, then give him a chance.
Sending Bradley down in May or June would’ve made far more sense then than now. There’s no doubt his issues have continued after a strong stretch, but let him work out the kinks at the major league level. It’s not like the Red Sox have anything to play for in 2014. Meanwhile, more time and seasoning in the minors isn’t the worst thing for Betts.
It’s an interesting move based on the timing. We’ll see how it works out.