New York Mets: Jay Bruce Becoming a Long Term Answer?
May 2, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) celebrates a home run with center fielder Michael Conforto (30) against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce’s is anchoring the New York Mets lineup and could be considered as a long term option in the outfield. 

When the offseason started last November, just about every fan of the New York Mets was willing to personally drive Jay Bruce to the airport to send him to another city. At least, it certainly seemed that was the case.

Fast forward to the present, and Bruce is anchoring a lineup without Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores, amongst a few others. The Mets are hitting and Bruce has been in the middle of their offensive surge over the past week.

If Bruce can maintain all-star caliber production, he could be the Mets answer for the next several seasons in right field. He’s made three all-star teams and won two silver sluggers, which fans may have forgotten after his dismal 2016. His struggles last season are well documented, but his career success cannot be discounted, either.

After the 2017 season, Curtis Granderson will become a free agent and it’s hard to imagine him returning to Queens with only one legitimately productive season as a Met. Even if he rebounds over the rest of the season, he’ll be 37 next year and probably better suited for an American League club.

Michael Conforto is the ideal choice to play right field, but if he can prove to be adequate in center, he could stick there for his prime years. Thus far, he’s handled center fairly well.

There’s the possibility of a platoon between Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo in center with Conforto moving to right next season. However, Lagares’s injuries and inability to hit right pitching coupled with Nimmo being vastly unproven is a risk the Mets might not be willing to take. Expectations should be high again next season and the club will likely look for proven commodities roaming the outfield pastures.

Could the Mets sign a free agent to play center field next season to allow Conforto to man right? Lorenzo Cain and Carlos Gomez are the two biggest names that will be on the open market next winter. Both will be 32, which isn’t ideal for center fielders who are going to age over the course of multi-year contracts.

Jon Jay and Ben Revere are on the next tier of free agent center fielders next winter. The New York Mets, who are often criticized for their lack of spending, could be interested in center fielders who will come on shorter contracts for less money. There are still many variables that need to play out before the Mets go free agent shopping, but Conforto in center could very well be the plan over the short term rather than a “B” level free agent.

This brings us back to Jay Bruce. Lacking a plethora of options, the Mets could look at either extending or re-signing him. Josh Reddick‘s four year, $60 million dollar pact with Houston last winter could serve as a comparable contract, and would keep Bruce in New York through his age 34 season, right before outfielders generally start to decline.

The Mets could also offer Bruce a qualifying offer which he’d likely decline should he finish the season with strong numbers.

It’s early May, and so much can change over the course of a long season. However, if Bruce continues to sizzle in New York, the man everyone wanted out of town could be welcomed back with blue and orange arms.

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