The Milwaukee Brewers believe they have room for more than one Gold Glove center fielder in their outfield.
Milwaukee finalized its $24 million, two-year contract with Jackie Bradley Jr., whose deal allows him to opt out after one season and $13 million to become a free agent again. It also includes a mutual option that could make it worth $28 million over three seasons.
Bradley, who turns 31 on April 19, joins an outfield that already includes 2019 Gold Glove center fielder Lorenzo Cain, 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich and Avisaíl García, giving the Brewers four experienced starters for three spots. Bradley won an AL Gold Glove with Boston in 2018 and was a finalist for the award in 2014, 2016 and 2019.
“I think we’ve just got a lot of great players here,” Bradley said Monday from the Brewers’ spring training camp in Phoenix. “I’m excited to be in the mix. The opportunity’s going to present itself. I don’t have to worry about making the lineup. I’m here to help the team win, and that’s my main focus.”
Bradley gets a $6.5 million salary this year, of which $3.5 million is deferred and payable $333,333 on Jan. 14 next year, $3 million on Jan. 13, 2023, and $166,667 on Jan. 12, 2023.
The deal includes a $9.5 million player option for 2022, of which $6.5 million would be deferred and payable $333,333 next Jan. 13 and $6,167,000 on Jan. 12, 2024. If Bradley declines the option, he would get a $6.5 million buyout payable $3 million next Jan. 14, $333,333 on Jan. 13, 2023, and $3,167,000 on Jan. 12, 2024.
Bradley’s deal also includes a $12 million mutual option for 2023 with an $8 million buyout that would be payable $1 million on Jan. 12, 2024, and $7 million on Jan. 15, 2025.
The Brewers’ need for outfield depth has become more apparent the last few days.
Cain is dealing with a quadriceps issue that has slowed his progress this spring training, potentially complicating his status for the start of the season. Cain opted out of the pandemic-altered 2020 season after playing just five games.
“I’ll do everything possible to get ready,” Cain said. “I plan on being on the field opening day.”
Cain, who turns 35 on April 13, called Bradley an “unbelievable defensive player who can swing the bat” and a welcome addition to the team. Cain didn’t express any concern that the addition of Bradley could affect his own job security.
“It’s not a challenge to me,” Cain said. “I feel like I’ve shown what I can do, day in and day out, year in and year out, what I can do as far as center field. If what I’ve done in the past is not enough, then what can I say?”
Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said there should be plenty of at-bats for all four outfielders, even if everyone stays healthy.
“If we look at three outfield positions, conservatively there are 2,100 plate appearances,” Stearns said. “That’s a lot of playing time. That’s a lot of plate appearances. We want as good of players as possible to consume all of those. So now to hopefully be able to have four really, really good players consuming those 2,100 plate appearances, that puts us in a really good spot.”
Stearns noted that Cain had some wisdom teeth removed before the start of camp, shutting him down for a week to 10 days. Cain said he later hurt his quadriceps while running the bases.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Cain wasn’t on the field last week and added “he’s going to be slowed by this and we’re at a point where the schedule starts to get a little tight, but I think we still have time to be ready for the season.”
“Look, this is part of what can be expected when you have a player who relies a great deal on his lower body, who wasn’t in a competitive environment for a long time, so we knew we needed the spring and the entirety of the spring to get him going,” Stearns said. “Unfortunately we’ve lost a chunk of that at this point. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go.”
Cain remains optimistic about his chances of being ready for the April 1 opener.
“As far as getting on the field and seeing live pitching, that’s the only setback I see,” Cain said. “I think I’ll get caught up to speed real quick. I’m doing everything possible to get back on this field as soon as possible. I think I’ll be ready to go.”
If Cain is ready for the start of the season, the Brewers could face some interesting decisions as they try to divide playing time among four experienced outfielders.
“It’s not something I have to worry about,” Bradley said. “I’ll leave that up to Craig and the people who are running the show. I’m going to be focused on helping the team any way I possibly can, and wherever I’m playing, let’s go.”
Milwaukee opened a roster spot by placing utilityman Tim Lopes on the 60-day injured list. Counsell said Lopes injured an oblique while swinging a bat in an exhibition game last week.