Jay Bruce is back in Queens. That’s going to make some of you mad, but here’s why Bruce back in Flushing is going to work out for the New York Mets.
Take a moment and picture the MLB offseason as a barren, desolate desert like the Sahara. Now, do your best to picture 70-year-old Sandy Alderson traversing the tempestuous sand dunes as he searches for anything he can use to help survive, a.k.a. improve the New York Mets.
As he presses onward with the sun beating down on him, he comes across many mirages. Carlos Santana, Zack Cozart, and Mitch Moreland all appear before his eyes, beckoning to him to come closer. Just as they appeared, they proceed to disappear into thin air and Alderson remains lost, thirsty, and clinging to a sliver of hope.
Forgive me for the hyperbole, but there has been no better way to describe the Mets’ offseason.
Countless free agents have come and gone, while we all sit back and listen to rumors that never come to fruition. Alderson took a nice first step by bringing in Anthony Swarzak (HELLLOOO), but this club is still miles away from improving to the level necessary to compete for a title.
On Wednesday, the Amazins’ took a step in the right direction.
After shipping him off to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Ryder Ryan at the trade deadline, the Mets reached a pact with Jay Bruce to bring him back to Queens over the next three years for a grand total of $39 million. Prior to being traded, Bruce was extremely productive on the offensive end, blasting 29 home runs and recording 75 RBIs in only 103 games. As he returns to Flushing, Bruce hopes to build on his success from a year ago and lead the Amazins’ back into the playoff hunt.
Reports indicate that JAY BRUCE is returning to the Mets on a three-year deal pic.twitter.com/IJ0Y6oCzAS
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) January 11, 2018
Patience is a Virtue
When entering free agency, Jay Bruce’s camp had some pretty lofty expectations. The left-handed outfielder sought to sign a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million. But the offseason has been slow, and at the risk of pricing himself out of his own market, Bruce had to come down on that number. With zen-like patience, Alderson waited him out and brought back a productive player on a team friendly contract.
Jay Bruce deal with #Mets is backloaded. Breakdown, per source: $10M this season, $14.5M in 2019, $14.5M in ‘20.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2018
The specifics of the deal backloads the money due to Bruce. In 2018, he will earn $10 million while earning $14.5 million in 2019 and 2020. Carlos Santana, another target of the Mets before agreeing to join the Phillies, netted $60 million over the same length. Worse comes to worse if the Mets decide they want to part ways with Bruce, it is not supremely complicated to unload a $14.5 million contract.
Insurance for Dom
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Mets beat out the Phillies to sign Carlos Santana. Here we are with a $20 million per season player who can only play first base. A signing like that would have been the kiss of death for Dominic Smith.
Bruce’s versatility to play both corner outfield positions and first base is merely an insurance policy for Smith. The jury is still out on whether Dom Smith can be a solid big leaguer, but just in case he can’t or needs another year of seasoning, Bruce can man first in the interim. Personally, I’m not sold on the smear campaign surrounding Smith. His poor performance in limited action is not enough to deter my belief that he still has a fair amount of potential. However, it never hurts to have a backup plan in place and now the Mets do.
Additionally, having an option like Bruce for first gives the team the flexibility to flip Smith in a trade if they choose so. If Smith became available, Alderson could maybe use him as the centerpiece of a deal to potentially acquire someone like Andrew McCutchen.
Big Bat Legitimacy
Have you ever seen “That Thing You Do!” with Tom Hanks? Arguably one of my favorites—screen it when you have a moment—but I digress.
According to The Oneders’ first manager Phil Horace (played by Chris Ellis), “I’ve found that a hit record is like a stew. All the ingredients have to come together just right. Otherwise, it’s just soup.”
I feel the exact same way about a major league lineup.
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Alone, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce are three very good hitters. Cespedes may be the best on this list, but without a strong supporting cast, it’s hard to win many ball games. Just look at Mike Trout. Together, those three equal one hell of a lineup.
Now, we have to temper expectations because up in the Bronx they’ve assembled what could potentially be the modern version of Murderers’ Row. The Mets will never to compete by the Yankees standards, but in my professional opinion (and I have to believe at this point I am qualified to have one), Cespedes, Conforto and Bruce is the foundation of a batting order that can find themselves playing in October.
You Know What You’re Getting
Jay Bruce is a major league talent. The move is going to be polarizing amongst fans, but one thing that is not deniable is that Bruce belongs to a big league club somewhere. Over the past seven seasons, the Texas native has averaged 30 home runs, 94 RBIs and a .787 OPS. Compare that to Carlos Santana who averaged 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, and an OPS of .808.
Jay Bruce: Turns 31 first week of 2018 season. Averaged 30 HR, 94 RBI, .787 OPS last 7 seasons.
Carlos Santana: Turns 32 first week of 2018 season. Averaged 24 HR, 81 RBI, .808 OPS last seven seasons.
Bruce gets 3 years/$39M from Mets. Santana gets 3 years/$60M from Phillies.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 11, 2018
The difference in numbers there is negligible at best, but when you consider the two of them, the Mets signed the younger, more versatile and power oriented player at a price of $21 million less. Between two All-Star appearances, two Silver Slugger Awards, down-ballot MVP votes twice, and a top-five finish in Rookie of the Year Voting back in 2008, Bruce is significantly undervalued and the Mets stole him at a bargain basement price.
It never hurts to have a veteran presence in the clubhouse. Nor does it hurt to have this guy celebrating with you after a big win.
Where is Jay Bruce going?! pic.twitter.com/jKqyPvik0f
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) January 11, 2018
Here in 2018, we feared that the Mets would be too cheap to make a move. Well, to paraphrase the Green Man himself, we were trapped in the desert so long that we’ll accept anything.
This Jay Bruce signing is like walking through the desert for months with no water before randomly stumbling on a vending machine full of Dasani water. It’s not great water but at this point whatever, I’ll take it. I’m dying over here.
— It's me, the Green Man. (@sschreiber13) January 11, 2018
The Jay Bruce signing is fine. His contract is team friendly and we’ve already have seen that he has the poise to perform in baseball’s biggest market. I’ve campaigned for his return for quite some time and I truly believe he will prove many doubters wrong in 2018. Under the frugal and frustrating Wilpon regime, we can simply only take what we can get. Until then, it will remain pretty lonely over here on Jay Bruce island.
— Andrew Harts (@AndrewHarts) January 11, 2018
And as the last word, somebody please try to convince me Bruce doesn’t look like Cousin Sal.
— Justin Birnbaum (@Birny53) January 11, 2018