KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals add more defensive help in the outfield by signing former Gold Glove outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor league deal, the team announced Wednesday.
We have signed OF Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 1, 2023
Bradley will also receive an invite to spring training.
Bradley Jr. is one of the premier defensive center fielders since his MLB debut in 2013. According to Fangraphs, Bradley Jr.'s defensive runs saved of 73 was the seventh most by a center fielder since his debut. Three former Royals center fielders Lorenzo Cain, Billy Hamilton, and Michael A. Taylor, along with Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, former Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, and former Mets outfielder Juan Lagares are the only center fielders to have played better than him defensively in that span.
Bradley Jr. has never been a bat-first player, with the former Boston Red Sox center fielder achieving above league average hitting only three times in his career, but none since the shortened 60-season 2020 pandemic season.
Bradley Jr. achievements include an All-Star appearance in 2016, a Gold Glove, ALCS MVP and a World Series in 2018, all with the Boston Red Sox.
Bradley Jr.'s path to making the Royals roster could be slim, especially as center fielder. Center fielder options for the Royals include Drew Waters, Kyle Isbel, Edward Olivares and Nate Eaton. All four players had time playing in the outfield last season for the Royals.
However Bradley Jr. is still a serviceable center fielder defensively, with the Richmond, Virginia, native able to rack up an OAA (Outs above Average) in the 91st percentile among all outfielders, according to Baseball Savant.