Late last night, the Mets traded Jay Bruce to the Cleveland Indians for a single-A pitcher, whose ERA is close to 5.00. If you’re on the edge of your seat, dying to ask “And…?” or “Who else?” don’t bother. That’s it. That’s all the return they got for their leading home run hitter (29), RBI producer (75) and number two man in OPS (.847). The older fans among us will recall a similar feeling in 2004, when prized young pitcher Scott Kazmir – who could have commanded a king’s ransom at the time – only brought back Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. And while there is at least one obvious valid reason for this to happen right now and for this return, the move has left many in the fan base scratching their heads, if not outright angry.
First of all, trading Bruce opens up a roster spot for minor league first base wunderkind Dominic Smith. He’s been talked about in tandem with shortstop phenom Amed Rosario so much, their names should almost be written as one word: rosarioandsmith, smithandroisario. His arrival has been anticipated since he was the Mets’ number one draft pick in 2013. A smooth fielding line drive hitter, he evokes some of the skills of prime time Keith Hernandez, maybe with a little more power. That remains to be seen, of course; the Mets haven’t even announced a roster move yet. And it gives right field to Michael Conforto for the foreseeable future, so there’s that.
Otherwise, though, the benefits of this trade are a little bit murky down here at the fan level. This move smacks of coming from somewhere higher up than GM Sandy Alderson. Yes, Cleveland agreed to take on all of Bruce’s remaining salary – a less-than-whopping $5,000,000 at this point in the season. So as far as salary dumps go, this one is less than optimal. There is a rumor floating about that the Mets could have gotten a bigger prospect haul from the Yankees for Bruce in exchange for picking up some of the money, but either A.) refused to cover any of his salary, B.) refused to trade with the Yankees on general principal or C.) both. If true, that’s a move that reeks of Jeff Wilpon. I’m sorry, but I always thought the idea was to improve the team, not save a buck or two or preserve face. If you could get some quality prospects from what’s touted as the best farm system in the business, you do it, Yankees be damned. The only teams to try to avoid helping are the ones in your own division: you wouldn’t want Jay Bruce joining Daniel Murphy down in Washington, would you?
I’ve already heard fans say that now they have no more reason to go to a game this year. The Mets are eleven games under .500, playing listless, unwatchable baseball and they’ve now traded one of their few remaining gate attractions. For an ownership that’s been accused of caring only about attendance and not so much about winning, this seems counterproductive, don’t you think? As it stands right now, the Mets will head into 2018 with gaping holes at second, third and center, an unproven first baseman, a hot shot shortstop who can’t seem to tell a ball from a strike yet and a catcher who’s just about out of chances – and that’s not even talking about the need for a completely new bullpen or help for a rag-armed starting staff. And with this, this front office sees a contender next year, needing to “retool,” rather than “rebuild.”
It just never gets any better, does it?
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.