The Yankees have agreed to a minor league deal with veteran outfielder Jay Bruce, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Bruce will earn a $1.35MM guarantee for reaching the big league roster, plus additional $50K bonuses that will unlock if he receives at least 400 plate appearances.
A three-time All-Star from his days with the Reds, Bruce was something of a power-first hitter even in his prime, but has become even more of a homer-centric bat in recent years. Bruce hit 36 home runs with the Mets in 2017 and 26 home runs in a 2019 season split between the Mariners and Phillies, but he has an overall slash line of .233/.301/.474 over 1414 PA since the start of the 2017 season. In 2020, Bruce hit .198/.252/.469 with six homers in 103 PA for Philadelphia while battling quad injuries for much of the season.
At the cost of just a Spring Training invite and potentially a modest $1.3MM salary, there isn’t much risk for the Yankees in seeing if Bruce can still contribute as he approaches his 34th birthday. The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium is certainly inviting for a left-handed power bat, and Bruce’s chances of making the team are helped by the lack of left-handed hitters on the roster. Bruce can also offer some positional versatility off the bench, capable of playing first base or either corner outfield spot.
As Rosenthal noted in a follow-up tweet, adding Bruce “does not preclude [the] Yankees from re-signing Brett Gardner.” Recent reports indicated that the Yankees hadn’t had any talks with their longtime outfielder this winter, despite the general assumption that Gardner would eventually re-sign for his 14th season in the pinstripes. While Bruce lacks Gardner’s center field capability, New York now has a left-handed hitting outfielder in camp as depth in case a deal can’t be reached with Gardner. If Bruce impresses during Spring Training, the Yankees could ultimately decide that spending $1.3MM for Bruce is preferable to spending even a modest amount more in guaranteed money to bring Gardner back into the fold.