JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT THE RECENT RUMORS of a trade FOR METS OF JAY BRUCE
Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays were involved in a three team deal with the Cincinnati Reds sending outfielder Jay Bruce to the Blue Jays for Michael Saunders. The third team in the trade, the Los Angeles Angels were sending multiple prospects back to the Reds, one of those prospects failed their physical and the deal fell through. Initially when the season began Jays fans were happy that the trade didn’t go through, praising the play of Michael Saunders who eventually became and All-Star, but the poor second half of Saunders season has the Blue Jays looking for answers this offseason.
The rumor of the Blue Jays being interesting in Bruce has popped up again. Both Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman reported Tuesday night, that the Blue Jays were making a strong push to trade for Bruce. With the impending free agency of outfielders Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, the Blue Jays are left looking for outfield replacements who can bring some power to the lineup. Bruce does just that with the added bonus of being a lefty, making it very reasonable why the Blue Jays would be interested in him.
At the trade deadline this season, Bruce was traded to the New York Mets for prospects Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Bruce at the time, was enjoying a bounce back season at the plate. Hitting .265/.316/.559, hitting 25 home runs, leading the National League with 80RBI’s, and his play was good enough to be named to the NL All-Star Team. When Bruce was in his first press conference with the Mets he was asked what was different about his resurgent season.
“I would say health. In 2014 I had knee surgery, and I’ll never use that as an excuse to why I struggled, but it created some bad habits, and they kind of leaked into 2015 a little bit.”
Bruce’s play from the first half of the season wouldn’t full transfer over to his play with the Mets. In his 50 games with the Mets, his slash line would drop to .219/.294/.391, hitting 8 home runs, and driving in 19 runs. You could point to his poor performance on the process of being traded, which has proven that players can initially perform very poorly to their standards when they switch teams (Troy Tulowitzki). As the season went on, Bruce became even more aggressive at the plate, his strikeouts increased, and his play from 2015 started to sneak back into his game.
Bruce would finish the season with a walk to strike out ratio of 0.35, which ranked him in the bottom 15 of players in the National League. His bat was semi productive this season, mostly because of the power Bruce produces with an amazing .256 ISO. The Blue Jays as of right now, don’t posses the same amount of power in their lineup as they did a season ago. He may fill that hole as a power bat who can hit right handed pitchers well from the left side of the plate, but might not be the caliber of “upgrade” the Blue Jays are looking for.
If this story sounds oddly familiar to you, it’s because Jays fans experienced almost the identical kind of season out of Saunders. Bruce’s drop off in production from his time with the Reds compared to the Mets wasn’t as prominent as Saunders drop off in production, but their style of play almost mirrors each other. Both are lefty out fielders who hit for a lot of power, never really hitting for average, and the other characteristic they share is they are both really bad at defense.
Bruce had a career worst year playing in the field, with a -15.2 defensive WAR, which again is weird because Saunders was a -15.3. The -11 defensive runs saved was bottom 10 for all fielders in the MLB, his -8.9UZR ranked him tied for seventh worst out of all outfielders, tied with none other than… you guessed, Michael Saunders. For as important as Bruce’s bat may be could be in the Blue Jays lineup, it isn’t good enough to make up for him being a liability in the field. With the DH role most likely already locked up with the signing of Kendrys Morales, Bruce would probably see a lot of time in the field, not something Jays fans want to experience.
Bruce is coming into the last season of his 6 year/$51million dollar deal he signed with the Reds back in 2011. The Mets picked up the $13,000,000 team option Bruce had on his contract, as insurance in case impending free agent Yoenis Cespedes didn’t re-sign. Cespedes and the Mets agreed to a 4yr/$110mil deal on Tuesday, making the Mets outfield a little crowded. With Bruce being a liability in the field, it’s hard to see the Mets finding much time for him next season. The asking price for Bruce might not be too high, as the Mets would be looking to shed $13mil off their bench quickly.
The Blue Jays front office has made some steal trades for players of similar value, the Melvin Upton Jr. trade is one to draw example from, but in this case the Mets will most likely not absorb any of Bruce’s contract because it’s expiring. If the Blue Jays could land Bruce for low end prospects it could be a decent trade. Filling in a hole in RF and as a lefty power bat in the lineup, regardless how ugly the numbers may be. Trading anything significant for Bruce probably isn’t worth the inconsistency.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: C Stem- JFtC
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