Jay Bruce is a misleading security blanket and weak contingency plan for Yoenis Cespedes’ potential departure from New York.
Jay Bruce is in the midst of a career year, no doubt. His offensive numbers are impossible to write off as the result of a fluke season.
They are, however, quite deceiving. His .259 batting average, combined with his impressive power numbers – 26 home runs and a .552 slugging percentage – along with his National League-leading 83 RBI, are all promising statistics for a player the Mets will hope to front the team’s offense.
And that, precisely, is the problem: that the Mets anticipate Jay Bruce to take over and lead the Mets’ lineup both in the interim while Yoenis Cespedes is on the DL, and next year too.
So get used to Jay Bruce in the three-hole, Mets fans. And get ready for an absent Yoenis Cespedes.
Here’s a reality check: Yoenis Cespedes is all but guaranteed to opt out of the remaining two years and $47.5 million on his contract. Instead, he will depart in free agency for the power-hungry team most willing to give him five or more years.
That’s where Cespedes should go, and that’s where he will go.
The Mets, for their own reasons, will in all likelihood not be that team.
And, as stated, there are reasons. You’d have to start with those arms: from Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, the Mets will owe an immeasurable amount of money – at least at this point the cumulative number seems impossible to pinpoint – to its precious pitching staff.
Cespedes will be 31 in October. So, reasonably enough, the Mets would prefer to preserve the war chest for the likes of its pitching, a group engulfed with youth.
Here’s the more compelling reason the Mets will allow Cespedes to walk: a 29-year-old left-handed hitting right fielder named Jay Allen Bruce.
Bruce, acquired on August 1 at the MLB Trade Deadline, is Mets fans’ consolation prize for letting Cespedes go.
If all goes according to these predictions, the Mets will fall back on Bruce to supplant the Cuban slugger’s production in 2017.
Now for the sobering truth which attributes its finding to the aid of one important entity, all too often forgone for romantics in sports: reality.
The reality surrounding Jay Bruce’s 2016 season is that it is by far his best as a big leaguer.
Though that’s not to say Bruce hasn’t been productive in his first seven Major League seasons, it is to say that maintaining his 2016 numbers is unlikely.
Bruce has sported .217 and .226 batting averages his previous two seasons. Fans seem to forget this, but the industry hasn’t. That could be why the Mets were able to acquire the NL-leading run producer for Dilson Herrera, to which one executive said, “The Reds got fleeced.”
Even if Bruce can repeat his career year (in which he has reached base at an underwhelming .311 clip) as the Mets’ hypothetical three-hitter next season, he will not cut it as a contender’s top bat.
With Cespedes out of the fold – which, of course, is not a lock but seems predictable – the Mets offense will slide into a state of even further obscurity, destined for perpetual mediocrity.
Jay Bruce is not Yoenis Cespedes. If the Mets choose to let Cespedes walk and entrust the offense to the bat of Bruce, the club will be faced with future complications which are, at this point, unforeseen.
As pundits have dubbed the Bruce trade as thoughtful for the future because of the outfielder’s remaining year of control, it is actually a stark opposite.
Instead, now excused to stand pat in the soon-to-come Cespedes sweepstakes, the Mets will depend on Jay Bruce to fill the shoes of La Potencia.
Mark my words, this career .249 hitter is not the suitor to fill those shoes, and the Mets will revert back to the club’s pre-Cespedes days, a period of time which fans have attempted to erase from their memories for its dire desperation to rise from the ashes of incompetence and irrelevance.