The latest rumors have the Mets and Reds talking about a Jay Bruce trade. Bruce does not play center field, does not bat righty and has a bigger contract than Carlos Gomez. He may not have been the Mets’ first choice but he may end up being the better player for the club to acquire.
If there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that Mets fans have little faith in the team’s medical staff. That’s what leading the National League in most days lost to the DL over the last 15 years will do for your reputation. So, let’s say there’s nothing inherently wrong with Gomez. Since another team traded for him, it’s not an outlandish idea.
How do Bruce and Gomez stack up?
After five forgettable seasons in the majors, Gomez started to put it all together in 2012 at age 26. That year he topped a .700 OPS for the first time, with a .260/.305/.463 slash line. He did even better the following year, posting an .843 OPS, winning the Gold Glove Award and making the All-Star team. Last year was a similar season and this year he’s fallen off considerably.
Gomez’ 2015 resembles his 2012 season, good but not great. He has a .751 OPS and a .162 ISO. Those are nice numbers for a CF but it’s a drop of 92 points of OPS and 60 points of ISO from just two years ago. And after he notched 40 SB in 2013, he has just seven so far this year, with two-thirds of the season already having been played.
Meanwhile, Bruce is having a bounce-back season this year at age 28, a year younger than Gomez. After four straight seasons with an OPS over .800, Bruce fell to a .654 mark in 2014. This year he checks in with an .827 OPS, with a healthy .229 ISO. He’s got a career-high BB% (11.2) and his K% (21.4) is his lowest since 2009. Additionally, he’s showing almost no lefty-righty split. Bruce has an .832 OPS vs. RHP and an .813 mark versus southpaws.
From a strictly offensive point of view, Bruce holds a 76-point edge in OPS and a 67-point edge in ISO.
The concern is that Bruce is a product of his home park. In Great American Ball Park, Bruce has an .887 OPS and in road games, that mark falls to .771, a drop of 116 points. Meanwhile, Gomez has a .763/.741 home/road split. Yet if you look at Gomez’ big seasons in 2013 and 2014, you notice the same big home/road splits that Bruce has. Both of those seasons, Gomez had a home OPS in the .900s and a road OPS in the .700s. It seems odd to hold Bruce’s ability to continue to succeed in his home park against him.
But the biggest reason to prefer Gomez continues to be his ability to play center field. There’s no doubt that Gomez holds an edge over Bruce in this department. But, he’s gone from an all-world center fielder to one who is just above average. Gomez has retreated from a 24.4 UZR in 2013 to a 5.8 mark last year and this season he sits with a 0.7 UZR.
Bruce had a 10.2 UZR in right field in 2013, posted a (-6.1) mark last year and currently sits with a 2.1 mark here in 2015. It’s harder to play CF than it is to play RF, no one is debating that. Yet today, Bruce is a better RF than Gomez is a CF and that holds true whether you look at UZR or DRS. By the latter system, Bruce holds a 5-run edge in 2015.
For whatever reason, Gomez is not hitting for power or running as well as he did the past two seasons. Defensively, we’ve seen this movie already with Juan Lagares in CF. He’s not the player in 2015 that he was the past two seasons. Yet he’s still better than Gomez right now. Lagares has a 4.5 UZR and a 4 DRS so far in 2014.
The assumption has been that the Mets wanted a CF to allow Lagares a chance to go on the DL and heal, so it makes sense to get a CF. But in Curtis Granderson, the Mets have a player who can handle CF, even if nowhere near as good as what we’ve become accustomed to with Lagares the past few years.
FanGraphs has the difference in run values between CF (+2.5) and RF (-7.5) as being 10 runs. Granderson has a 10.6 UZR/150 in RF this year. If he were to switch to CF, we might expect him to lose 10 runs, or be essentially a league-average player in center. Gomez has a 2.0 UZR/150. The dropoff between Gomez and Granderson is not much by this back-of-the-envelope calculation. Just to be safe, let’s triple it and say the difference between the two would be six runs over a full season.
Bruce has a 13.0 wRAA, compared to a 4.7 mark for Gomez. If you add the offensive and defensive numbers together, Bruce comes out being the better acquisition.
Perhaps Gomez heals in the offseason and comes back in 2016 as the guy he was in 2013. But that ignores the fact that in 2015, he’s inferior to Bruce. The Mets need a CF primarily for 2015, because the hope is that Lagares heals this offseason, as well. And let’s face it, if both Gomez and Lagares are completely healthy, Lagares is playing CF.
The bottom line is that Bruce has a longer track record of success in the majors and is performing better right now. And while it’s not much of an edge, he’s a year younger, too. We’ve seen Bruce bounce back from a disappointing season and get back to his previous offensive level. It remains to be seen if Gomez can do the same thing.
If money is truly no object for the Mets right now, we should be glad that there’s a potential consolation prize in Bruce better than the initial object of affection. Bruce is owed $12.5 million next year and has a $13 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2017.