Jackie Bradley Jr. should be a lock for the roster.
Minnesota Twins' general manager Terry Ryan, in talking about Aaron Hicks making the Twins' Opening Day roster, makes the bold statement of saying "The guy has earned it, I find it almost humorous that guys are talking service time and starting the clock. The guy has earned it."
Boy, I wish that Boston Red Sox' general manager Ben Cherington was saying this. If any team should be playing the service time card, it should be a team like the Twins. If any team should be taking their players north, it should be the Red Sox.
But here the small market Twins are thinking big and the big market Red Sox are thinking small.
The similarities between Aaron Hicks and Jackie Bradley Jr. are striking. Both young center fielders will be 23 by the end of April. Both players have only reached Double-A in their professional careers until now. Both players have been arguably the best player in their respective camps this spring.
It is just startling how the Twins and Ryan are choosing to handle this. The best players are the best players, period. Service time isn't a factor. How can you justify it to the fans or the veterans in the locker room if you overlook what the player has done on the field? Ryan makes a lot of good points talking about the Twins.
The Red Sox seemingly have been trying to put Bradley Jr. in a position to struggle, giving them the last minute ammunition to send him down to the minors. But even when being thrown in against lefty Cliff Lee or brought into a game late as a defensive replacement, Bradley Jr. has been up to the task.
The fact that Bradley Jr. is ready for the big leagues early is a good thing, it should be a source of pride for the organization. Only the Red Sox could create angst around a team that lost 93 games and finished last in the American League East by acting like Bradley Jr.'s quick rise to the majors in a bad thing.
This situation will likely take care of itself. If Bradley Jr. struggles and David Ortiz comes back healthy, then you send Bradley Jr. to the minors to spend his 20 days down on the farm, end of story. Immediately the Red Sox have the 2019 under wraps.
If Bradley Jr. carries his performance into the regular season, fantastic, this is a great situation to have as an organization. Too many players means options for the Red Sox.
By the end of the 2013 season, the Red Sox will likely have only Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia under the age of 30 in their starting lineup besides Bradley Jr. Getting younger should be a priority for Boston this coming winter.
Honestly, so what if Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino get a few less at-bats this season. Neither deal was great for the team, but the worst part would be if either player blocked Bradley Jr.'s progress to the major leagues.
Instead of focusing on hot dog and beer prices, the Red Sox could be focusing on the future stars at Fenway. That is what the real fans will be focused on in 2013.
Service time issues are something for management to deal with now and later. If you draft a player who is represented by Scott Boras, you can't cry foul two years later because he might take his player to free agency. If the Red Sox treat Bradley Jr. well and he becomes the player that everyone imagines, that hopefully things will take care of themselves in 2018 or 2019.
All right Ben Cherington, it's your move.