The 31-year-old came over to Milwaukee after spending the first chunk of his career with the Boston Red Sox, and many Brewers fans had high hopes for his impact.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for Bradley during his first season with the Brewers.
And barring a surprise, the club is likely going to be stuck with the former first-round pick for another season.
Here’s what you need to know about Bradley’s contract situation.
Bradley Has A Player Option For 2022, And He’s Likely Going To Exercise It
When Bradley and the Brewers decided to link up last offseason, the two sides agreed to a two-year deal worth $24 million.
The second year of the deal is a player option, meaning it’s entirely up to Bradley whether or not he returns to Milwaukee in 2022 (unless the Brewers make the decision to buy him out of the deal for $6.5 million, which is possible due to the way the contract is structured).
Player options are risky for clubs.
Whenever a team includes a player option on a deal, there’s always the possibility of the player underachieving in the years leading up to the option.
When that happens, the player typically exercises the option, because the odds of the player getting a better deal on the open market are low.
In Bradley’s case, that’s likely going to be the way this unfolds.
The outfielder had a brutal 2021 season, and the salary on his player option for 2022 is likely much bigger than the figures he’d get offered on the open market.
He’s almost certainly going to exercise the option and return to the team.
Bradley’s 2021 Season At A Glance
We keep mentioning how poor Bradley’s season was, but let’s take a look at the numbers.
He appeared in 134 games and racked up 428 plate appearances, so the sample size wasn’t small by any means.
The University of South Carolina product slashed .163/.236/.261.
He posted a historically bad OPS+ of 34 and finished with a WAR of -0.7.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had an OPS+ of 34 in 2021.
The only players I have found with a lower OPS plus in a season (since 1961) are
25 Mario Mendoza (Sea) 1979
31 Rob Picciolo (Oak) 1977
— John Pielli III (@john_pielli) October 9, 2021
His offensive WAR for the year was -1.9, meaning he essentially cost the Brewers two wins with his lackluster production at the plate.
Fortunately, he did add some value defensively, as he racked up a 1.3 defensive WAR and 12 Defensive Runs Saved.
But clearly, his stellar defense wasn’t enough to offset his struggles at the plate.
We All Know What He’s Capable Of
Since Bradley and the Brewers are likely going to spend another season together, it’s in Milwaukee’s best interest to stay optimistic.
Bradley is capable of being an All-Star-caliber player — we just need to see that side of him again.
During his time with the Red Sox, he had some solid seasons.
Keep in mind, Bradley is known for his glove.
His elite defense has always been his identity as a player.
Jackie Bradley with the catch of the season: pic.twitter.com/8CSkiLw0kG
— Red Sox Info (@InfoRedSox) July 17, 2017
For that reason, he just needs to be an average offensive player to be a net positive.
And during many of his years with Boston, he was.
From 2015 to 2020, he posted an above-average OPS+ of 101 and averaged 21 home runs per 162 games.
During that same span, he averaged a WAR of 4.2 per 650 plate appearances (i.e. roughly 162 games).
Those are great levels of production, and the veteran just needs to find a way to get back there.
Easier said than done, but certainly not impossible.