The Dodgers have considered Reds outfielder Jay Bruce as an outfield upgrade, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Bruce would add both left-handed hitting balance and some extra pop to a Los Angeles outfield that has underachieved this season, and may not be getting any internal reinforcements since Andre Ethier’s return from the DL is uncertain.
Bruce, 29, has rebuilt his trade value after a couple of subpar seasons by hitting .280/.329/.575 with 16 home runs over 283 plate appearances this year. He’s hitting for more power than ever before as per the Isolated Power metric (.295), and his 20.8% strikeout rate is his lowest total since 2009.
Despite the big offensive numbers, however, Bruce is still rated as barely above replacement level (0.2 fWAR) since he isn’t bringing much to the table in terms of baserunning or right field defense. Bruce’s defensive metrics have declined over the last two seasons and cratered this year to the tune of a -28.4 UZR.150 and minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved.
If L.A. acquired Bruce, he would be taking right field playing time away from Yasiel Puig, who has the opposite problem — a struggling bat but an elite glove. It seems likely that Bruce would primarily be used against right-handed pitching, as while he’s hit southpaws quite well this season, he has hit significantly better against righties than lefties over his career. Speaking of splits, Bruce has a notable but not outlandish gap between his carer home/away splits (.828 OPS at home, .751 OPS on the road), though a move from the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark to pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium is likely to have an impact.
Though Bruce’s performance in 2014-15 sapped his trade value, his power bat still generated some attention on the trade market as the Reds explored deals with the Orioles, White Sox and Blue Jays, among other teams. Cincinnati appeared very close to dealing Bruce to Toronto in a three-team deal involving the Angels in February, a trade that carries a lot of “what-if” potential given how Michael Saunders (who would’ve gone to Anaheim) has gone on to have a huge season for the Jays.
Bruce’s contract isn’t necessarily a problem for the deep-pocketed Dodgers, though he doesn’t represent too much of a financial commitment. He is only owed roughly $6.35MM remaining this season, plus a $1MM buyout of a $13MM club option on his services for 2017. Bruce can block trades to eight teams but as Rosenthal notes, the Dodgers aren’t on his no-trade list.
The Dodgers have hit .237/.308/.386 with a 90 wRC+ as a team this season, ranking in the bottom third of teams in most offensive categories. The lack of consistency from the outfield has contributed to the lack of pop, as Joc Pederson has struggled against lefties, Trayce Thompson has cooled off after a hot start, Puig has battled both injuries and a decline at the plate, and left field has become the domain of converted infielders Enrique Hernandez and Howie Kendrick.
If not Bruce, Rosenthal notes (in another tweet) that the A’s Josh Reddick or the Angels’ Kole Calhoun could also fit the Dodgers’ need for a left-handed hitting outfielder. Reddick is also a free agent after the season, though Calhoun is controlled through 2019 and would come at a much higher price (if the Halos were interested in dealing him at all).