Keeping Jay Bruce could work out well for Sandy Alderson

Jay BruceMost of baseball agrees that trading Dilson Herrera for Jay Bruce in 2016 was a mistake by Sandy Alderson and the Mets front office. For one, some argue that Herrera could have still been viewed as the team’s “Second Baseman of the Future” and that the Mets sold low on a prospect. For another the Mets had an overcrowded outfield with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares. Basically, the Mets added the best bat they thought they could and ignored an inability to get him playing time.

Remember though that Cespedes was set to enter free agency and that Conforto’s efficacy at the plate had taken a nosedive. Bruce was essentially insurance for the Mets in the case that Cespedes had to leave town. Hindsight being 20-20 we know that Cespedes didn’t leave town and that there were so many free agent sluggers in the current offseason that moving Bruce was basically impossible.

So, why isn’t Bruce as big of a mistake as everyone keeps shouting?

Spring Training is around the corner and the Mets will get a chance to see Bruce, Granderson, Conforto and even Brandon Nimmo (the left-handed outfielders) all take reps and at bats. Many times, Spring Training see’s one or another player take off or have an utterly miserable time at the plate. The other thing it does (particularly with the World Baseball Classic) is open up the unfortunate possibility that a given player might get hurt.

Perhaps the Mets will need Bruce to fill in for an injured player or, more likely, another team, who hadn’t needed an outfielder, will suddenly find themselves in need.

Imagine for a second that Bruce shows up this spring motivated and swinging a hot bat. Alderson has gone from eating part of his contract and acquiring a mediocre relief pitcher to netting a significant return for a player who is still quite capable of producing in the middle of many batting orders.

As much as it hurts to be a fan, waiting for something to happen. It might be a blessing in disguise that Alderson enters the pre-season with an extra bat in tow.

11 comments for “Keeping Jay Bruce could work out well for Sandy Alderson

  1. Jimmy P
    February 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

    The Bruce acquisition came in two parts, and that reality is conflated in this piece. I think it’s instructive to keep them separate.

    First, the trade. Desperate times, the offense was reeling; in my mind, a reasonable gamble.

    (Note: I’ve never shared SA’s long-held fascination with Bruce’s “power,” but oh well. In retrospect, the Mets went after the wrong skill set.)

    Two, picking up the contract. In the winter, SA could have let Bruce walk, saving $13 million to either pocket or use differently. I think it’s clear that Bruce is overpaid according to the current marketplace. Carter and his 41 HRs signing for $3 million with the Yankees tells us a lot. I never believed for one second that he would somehow replace the loss of Yoenis Cespedes.

    So now the Mets have Jay Bruce — a famously streaky hitter — at a bloated contract. Fortunately, it’s short-term. I don’t think for one second that a bright GM will see Jay Bruce “raking” in Spring Training and suddenly give up quality to overpay a low OBP guy who can’t run or field anymore. Kirkkkkk Nieuwenhuis rakes in Florida. It means nothing.

    By keeping Bruce, the Mets did not upgrade the catching position. Did not do any number of things. But they did essentially block Conforto and set Nimmo out to pasture (for now). They doubled-down on all the offensive flaws we saw play out last season.

    Sure, it could work out that Jay Bruce has a terrific season in NY for the Mets. I don’t think it was a great plan and I do believe it was a horrendous use of resources.

    Interestingly, a year ago at this time the Reds found that there was limited interest in Bruce on the marketplace. He had a great first half and SA, long infatuated and watching the season slip away, felt he had to do something. Again, I can’t kill him for that impulse. I liked he tried, that he placed value on the real-time season over a couple of future prospects.

    Side note, I’ve always wondered more about Wotell than Herrera. Lefty relievers who throw hard don’t grow on trees.

    Question: Where would Wotell rank on Mets prospect list if he was still in the organization? I know there are serious doubts about the guy. But there’s raw talent, too. Right?

    • TexasGusCC
      February 20, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      Jimmy, going backwards, Wotell wasn’t in much favor with scouts. His 89-91 heater was projected to improve but hadn’t. Too, even Conlon was passing him up.

      I would have picked up the option in an effort to get something of value back but I hated the trade. However, when the Orioles are asking in the early part of theoff-season to eat some money in the early part of the off-season, I would have. The small town Mets couldn’t afford to.

      • Jimmy P
        February 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

        To be clear, again, I would have picked up the option too, because like Sandy, I misread Bruce’s value on the open market.

        However, unlike Sandy, I don’t have his contacts or resources. Jay Bruce is the mistake that keeps giving.

        • February 21, 2017 at 9:12 am

          I get criticizing Alderson for picking up the option, because it’s Alderson’s job to have a feel for how things are going to turn out.

          But I’m not sure how contacts and resources would have helped in this particular case. Are the front office personnel from other teams supposed to tell Sandy – nah, we’re not going to pay for power this offseason? Are the agents for players supposed to tip him off that they’re worried that their power-hitting clients are facing a soft market? Is he supposed to buy this information from a shady operative like the Duke brothers in Trading Places?

          Who were the agents who correctly read this market and signed their power hitter to a deal that looked cheap at first but now looks great? The Blue Jays offered $80 million to Encarnacion that his team turned down. Bautista’s agent asked for 5/$150 and he didn’t come close on years or AAV. Trumbo’s agent asked for 4/$80 and turned down 4/$57. Morales signed for more years and a greater AAV than his previous two-year contract. Cespedes got a great AAV.

          Do we credit the Orioles for having a higher offer turned down, only to have the player come back and accept a lower offer? To me, that seems like standard negotiating that worked out fabulously in their favor. Fortune over skill.

  2. MattyMets
    February 20, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse about this mistake of a trade or Alderson’s follow-up mistake to resign a player with hopes of trading him. My fingers are crossed that a trade partner emerges during ST so Conforto can begin the season as the starting RF.

    Not only is Bruce redundant as an outfielder, but, with Granderson and Duda in the lineup, his bat is equally redundant. Two streaky, strikeout prone lefties who struggle against same side pitching is enough. No lineup needs three.

  3. Eraff
    February 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    BTW…the Walker Contract Talk— I haven’t seen this written, but I suspect (poor word) that the Mets and Walker Already have an agreement that was made in advance of the Tender Offer—they have a 3-4 year number that he has agreed to, pending his physical ability to play, as demonstrated in 2017 (probably early on). I believe this was a “Gentlemen’s Handshake”… he wanted to stay and they wanted him—I’m guessing at 12-14 per—3/4 years. He was getting Nada in the open Market, and they leveraged the guarantee of the Tender toward the Final Agreement.

    That’s my bet.

    • Jimmy P
      February 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      On Walker, yes, it seems that way.

  4. February 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I’m not as high on Dilson Herrera as many. The swap with Bruce was fine at the time, as they were getting a premier power bat who had been solid in the field not long ago. If Bruce is on track for another 30+ hr season w/o embarrassing himself at the plate or in the field, Sandy stands to make out like a bandit by July.

  5. Joe F
    February 20, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Bruce had a $3M buyout, so technically the exposure is $10M

  6. Metsense
    February 21, 2017 at 7:10 am

    In retrospect, which is always easier, the Mets never needed Bruce as insurance for Cespedes leaving. They could have let him go, picked up Desmond (5/15) or the more expensive Fowler (5/82). That would have left the starting OF as Conforto (LF), the new CF, and Granderson in RF. (but what to do with Lagares?)
    Many fans would have like this “new look” Mets team but then the Mets would be on the hook for 5 years. The Bruce option pickup, although not palatable, isn’t necessarily the wrong move either. It is a more conservative approach typical of Sandy Alderson and maintains future roster flexibility.

    • Metsense
      February 21, 2017 at 7:12 am

      Desmond 5/75 (edit)

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