It's Opening Day for the Red Sox. And 22 year-old outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is on the Major League roster. Bradley had an outstanding Spring Training. He has become the focal point of a massive grassroots/mass-media movement to have him on the 25-man roster on Opening Day. And now those who lobbied for him are satisfied.
From a strictly baseball standpoint, it makes sense to give Bradley this chance. If Bradley had been designated to the minors for 11 days, 2013 would not count as a year of Major League service for him, and his reaching free agency would be pushed back to 2019, instead of 2018.
He can still be optioned to AAA Pawtucket or AA Portland and this postponement of free agency can still be achieved. So if he doesn't excel in April, the Sox can send him down to the minors and thereby maintain their contractual control over him until 2019.
If he does excel, then that's good for the team. This is a 69 win club that could use all the help it can get. Even if it will make Bradley more expensive in 2018.
And who knows what the team's salary situation will be in 2018 or 2019? If Bradley turns into a star, isn't that a good problem to have? Does it make a significant difference if he gets his $100 million deal in 2018 (at age 28) or 2019 (at age 29)? It will be the same deal in either year.
And if he doesn't blossom into a star, and is just a serviceable Major League outfielder, then the Sox can let him go in 2018 and not lose much. Or they can sign him at a reasonable rate.
So from a baseball standpoint, this move makes sense.
However, as the lengthy title of this post stated, I do not trust the Red Sox to make decisions based solely on the desire to win games.
Had there not been such a crusade to get Bradley on the roster, would the Sox have kept him? If they didn't see an opportunity to showcase a young product of their minor league system, a symbol of future potential and success, would they have kept him?
Did they decide to put Bradley on the 25-man roster purely for baseball reasons, or were they also worried about a backlash from the fans? Were they afraid of being called cheap, and of being accused of not trying to win?
I don't know the answers to such questions. But I do know that I don't trust the Red Sox owners, their front-office, and their often forgotten puppet GM. Ben Cherington is like Kevin Pollak's character in Casino. He's the figurehead with a clean reputation that doesn't make any decisions, he's just there for appearance's sake.
And I don't trust Larry Lucchino to make a baseball decision without part of his twisted mind also considering the PR and financial impact of the decision. And John Henry probably thinks Jackie Bradley is the star of an action movie starring Samuel L. Jackson, or that he is the half-Scottish manager of Liverpool FC.
The Fenway Sports Group does not have any of my trust. And it will take a considerable amount of time to earn that trust back.