Other than the occasional huge deal for the likes of Trevor Bauer and JT Realmuto, Major League Baseball teams have been very frugal in free agency in the offseason coming off losing a ton of money in 2020 and with the possibility of largely empty stadiums to start the 2021 season as well. There are still some quality free agents out there; the best remaining one had been former Red Sox Gold Glove outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., but the Milwaukee Brewers signed him Thursday. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts very minimal impact for the Brew Crew.
Reportedly, it's a two-year, $24 million contract with an opt-out after one year, and Bradley, a 2016 All-Star, will take over in center field for Milwaukee, shifting Lorenzo Cain to right. Bradley was a Gold Glove winner in 2018 – he also was the 2018 ALCS MVP -- and the Brewers may now have the best defensive outfield in the majors because Cain, who opted out of most of the 2020 season, and left fielder Christian Yelich also have won Gold Gloves. New Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong has won a Gold Glove, too.
The Brewers and Dodgers will be the only teams that will start 2021 with a Gold Glove winner at all outfield positions. For the Dodgers, it's AJ Pollock (2015), Cody Bellinger (2019) and Mookie Betts (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020).
Interestingly, the Brewers' top four players on the 2021 payroll are now all outfielders: Cain at $17 million, Yelich at $14 million, Bradley at $12 million and Avisail Garcia at $10.75 million. Garcia will be the odd-man out most nights but there are plenty of at-bats to go around in a 162-game season and with injuries, etc. – although reportedly there will not be the DH in National League games this season like there were in 2020.
The SportsLine Projection Model (see below) only improves the Brewers from 81.6 wins to 82.0 with Bradley because he's not a great offensive player. He did hit a career-high .283 last year for Boston, but that was a shortened season and guys tend to have career years ahead of free agency. In 2019, Bradley hit.225 with an OBP of .317. His career batting average is .239 and his OBP .321.
Milwaukee's playoff chances via the model improved by 2.5 percent with the addition of Bradley – that's assuming the current MLB playoff format of three division winners and two wild card teams. William Hill Sportsbook has seen no changes on Brewers futures odds – they are +360 third favorites to win the NL Central and given an Over/Under win total of 83.5.
Also Thursday, the Brewers announced they had been approved by the City of Milwaukee to have 25 percent fan attendance (around 11,500) at newly-renamed American Family Field (formerly Miller Park) to start the regular season. The Brew Crew open at home on April 1 vs. Minnesota.
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