It sounds as if the Mets are set to pay Jay Bruce $13MM club option rather than paying him a $1MM buyout and sending him back onto the open market. Certainly, that has long been the expectation since the team acquired him by shipping youngsters Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell to the Reds at the trade deadline, with some suggesting that the addition was partially seen internally as a hedge against the departure of Yoenis Cespedes this winter.
Still, there are reasons to think that New York could have second thoughts on paying that sum for Bruce’s age-30 campaign. Even after a hot streak to end the year, Bruce wrapped up his 50 games in New York with a meager .219/.294/.391 batting line and eight home runs.
Though he hasn’t been consistent from year-to-year over his career, and some regression might have been expected, that’s a far sight shy of the .265/.316/.559 slash and 25 long balls that Bruce produced in 402 plate appearances this year in Cincinnati. As August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs explained recently, there are some worrying signs embedded in the late-year struggles, connected to Bruce’s mediocre and injury-limited prior two campaigns.
On the other hand, the Mets already paid the acquisition cost and penciled Bruce’s 2017 salary onto the books for a reason. Their scouts obviously liked what they saw in a player who doesn’t fit New York’s typical, high-OBP focus. (And that has worked out just fine so far with Cespedes.) Between 2010-13, Bruce racked up 121 home runs with a 121 OPS+ in more than 2,500 Major League plate appearances, so the talent is there.
And then there’s the question of defense, which was the biggest knock on Bruce’s value. Defensive metrics hated his glove of late in Cinci, even though some suggested that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the numbers suggested. Though it’s quite a small sample, Bruce’s 351 2/3 innings with the Mets were much more promising. He recorded 2 Defensive Runs Saved and 3.6 runs by measure of UZR during that span — quite strong marks.
Finally, there’s the matter of how well Bruce fits onto the Mets’ 2017 roster (depth chart). New York, of course, already has Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto as left-handed corner bats in the outfield, and the team hopes to retain Cespedes, even if that may be a long shot. While Granderson is still capable of playing center field, he’s best-suited for an outfield corner. Also in the mix will be Juan Lagares, who should be fully recovered from the thumb injury that sidelined him for most of the 2016 season’s second half.
Suffice it to say, there are numerous factors that need to be considered when answering what, on the surface, appears to be a fairly simple question. Let’s open this one up for discussion (link to poll for Trade Rumors app users)…