As the outfielder trade market dwindles due to free agency signings, the New York Mets may be forced to keep Jay Bruce.Sandy Alderson’s prospects for landing spots for slugging Outfielder Jay Bruce seem to be dwindling. Reports are out that the Toronto Blue Jays are on the cusp of re-signing lineup centerpiece Jose Bautista. Also, in a not so surprising move, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed free agent Michael Saunders to fill their outfield hole.
Saunders received a one-year, $9 million contract, with a club option in 2018, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. A low risk, high reward scenario for the Phillies, as it would cost four million more and prospects to obtain Bruce from the New York Mets.
The Phillies are in a semi-rebuild situation, and at age 30, Saunders could play himself into future plans with the team. The 24 home runs from a season ago could certainly balloon while hitting at Citizens Bank Park, but he will need to improve on his RBI production to be the future middle of the lineup piece Philadelphia is looking for.
The specifics of Jose Bautista’s deal have not yet been confirmed, but the parameters are believed to be structured similarly to Saunders contract, one year with an option. Again, this is low risk for the Toronto Blue Jays, and the agreement would have the flexibility to secure Bautista for an additional year longer than Bruce.
With two teams seemingly out of the race for Bruce, that would leave the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers that may want to make a deal. For the two American League teams, they would be able to utilize Bruce as both a corner outfielder and a designated hitter, certainly appealing given his past track record of 20-plus home run seasons, and ability to finish in the top ten in RBIs each year.
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The Mets will still need to take into account that free agents such as Mark Trumbo, Brandon Moss and Austin Jackson are still available. Trumbo and Moss may be considered the only bonafide middle of the lineup threats that teams will look to fill.
From now until the beginning of Spring Training, an unknown team may emerge, either struck by injury or looking to bolster their offensive production.
Alderson shouldn’t be too quick to trade the power hitter, though. A player in a contract year with a chip on their shoulder can do some wonderful things. Bruce may not be concerned by the size of his next deal in terms of dollar amount; he’s certainly earned a good living in his nine years of service. But the length of his next contract will be of major importance to him, as it is with most athletes.
There are several factors that Alderson and the Mets organization will need to consider when an offer is presented to them:
- Will the prospects we obtain be Major League players?
- Are we paying a portion of Bruce’s contract to diminish our offensive productivity?
- Can we fill the void of relief pitching in any deal?
All are valid questions which the front office will need to labor over to not be the losers in the deal.
For all of the defensive deficiencies that an outfield comprised of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce presents, the offensive production cannot be dismissed. There could be an average of 25-plus home runs per player in that outfield. With the return of former Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares, who would become the late inning defensive specialist, the Amazins could afford to get into some slugfests.
You may be able to chalk up the abysmal transition from Cincinnati to New York, as just that — a transition. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” as Sinatra would sing. Bruce hasn’t yet been afforded the proper time to determine if he hasn’t made it here.
This is what Terry Collins’ prospective lineup may look like to start the season:
An opposing starting pitcher will cringe each time a new hitter enters the batter’s box.
Keeping Jay Bruce isn’t the worst thing that could happen this offseason. If Alderson isn’t able to move the slugger and can add a difference maker in the bullpen, the Mets should stay in the mix for the National League crown all year long.