He is one of the most polarizing athletes in Boston. And it’s not because of any controversy he has been involved in.

In fact, center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. comports himself with grace and dignity on and off the field. He is the type of baseball player you want your kids to look up to. He’ll stop and take pictures with fans, reply to them on social media, and generally act like a young man who was raised to be a gentleman.

On the field, he is one of the most graceful players we have seen. He makes most plays look effortless, executing his routes to minimize effort and arrive at the ball with perfect timing.

He also makes spectacular plays that bring us out of our seat. Like the game-saving catch against the Orioles on May 8 that was named the No. 1 Play of the Year by the MLB Network. Bradley scaled the center-field wall at Camden Yards to steal a walk-off home run from Trey Mancini in the 11th inning. The Red Sox won the game an inning later.

He is one of the game’s best defensive outfielders, and should have more than one Gold Glove. Yet he is a league-average offensive player. A hitter prone to peaks that make him one of the best hitters on the team for a month at a time, and valleys that bring out the worst in Red Sox fans.

Ultimately, we gauge players based on salaries and contracts. A player like JBJ is an asset to a team, the spectacular defense making up for any offensive deficiencies, until his salary becomes too onerous for a team.

Bradley is reaching that point. After being tendered a contract Monday for the coming season, Bradley is expected to make some $11 million in arbitration in 2020, his final season under Red Sox control. Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom is hoping to get the Red Sox below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold next season, and cutting that salary off the payroll is probably a good place to start. There’s still a very strong chance JBJ will be traded long before Opening Day. In fact, the website MLB Trade Rumors listed Bradley as the fourth-most likely major league player to be traded this offseason.

So what will Bradley’s legacy be here in Boston? He played in two championship seasons and set the gold standard in center-field defense. He rarely said the wrong thing, a humble player who often passed when asked to rank his greatest catches.

And while his offense was sporadic, don’t forget that it was Bradley’s bat that earned him the MVP Award in the 2018 ALCS win over the Astros. Bradley was a master of all the key moments in that series, hitting a bases-clearing double in Game 2, a grand slam off closer Roberto Osuna in Game 3 and a two-run homer to give the Sox the lead for good in Game 4.

Not bad for a guy who has hit eighth or ninth for the bulk of his Red Sox career.

For now, Bradley remains the Red Sox center fielder. We’ll see how long he stays in that position. What we do know is this: Bradley has represented the organization as well as anyone who has worn the uniform in recent years. He was an important part of the most recent Red Sox championship. Fans can argue over whether he is worth $11 million, but there’s no debating his importance to this team over the past six years.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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