Jay Bruce trade raises more questions than it answers

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.

31 comments for “Jay Bruce trade raises more questions than it answers

  1. August 10, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Unfortunately nothing to disagree with here. It is hard to imagine the Mets ever turning into the sustainable winning team they say they want to be while the Wilpons are still the owners.

  2. August 10, 2017 at 7:46 am

    So between Duda and Bruce the team saves about 9 million and counting. I don’t see Granderson or Walker playing in Citifield much longer. This is cost cutting and the Mets finishing with a payroll under 150 million. The Wilpons’ don’t care about 2018 right now. That’s too far for them to even plan for Charlie. Let’s see who’s left at the end?

    • Steve S.
      August 10, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Not to mention losing about 70 homers by dumping both Bruce and Duda, and maybe 40 more with Grandson and Walker gone.

  3. Eraff
    August 10, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Every trade has been focused on “One Thing”—Bullpen Arms. That Focus argues against the idea that The Mets have taken “just anything” in return on these deals. Given the tight focus, I have every reason to believe that they’ve been equally focused on the actual players involved.. Every single one is Young and Live Armed. All ire in Full Season Ball at A+ to AA. All are fully devoted “Bullpenners”.

    They have added much needed depth and talent—and I believe they’re hoping to hit on a Lottery Ticket with at least one of these guys.

    I like direction they’ve taken… it’s the Grunt Work of building the Player Pool

    • Jimmy P
      August 10, 2017 at 8:39 am

      We’ve gotten 5 Vic Blacks. Hopefully one is better than Vic Black. By not including money, the “focus” has been on saving money, not bringing back talent.

      • August 10, 2017 at 9:57 am

        ding ding ding! We have a winner!

        Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • August 10, 2017 at 9:06 am

      Your point about the team’s tight focus is duly noted.

      Yet, the only player who’s close to helping among the guys they’ve acquired is Jamie Callahan. With the rest, we’re looking at three years or so before they’re ready to contribute, assuming that they’re talented enough to actually contribute. Who knows what the team’s main need in three years is going to be? So, is a tight focus a desirable thing?

      In the draft, you take the best available player and worry about how he fits in if/when he reaches the majors. My preference would have been this approach rather than the tight focus one.

      • Hobie
        August 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

        Brian, I think Drew Smith is closer than Callahan to a Queens appearance (not necessarily more talented, though). I agree on the draft philosophy.

        Do you think somewhere there is a Big Board–a depth chart 10 deep with ETA’s and/or trade fodder icons affixed?

        • August 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

          Callahan is in Triple-A while Smith is in Double-A. Not that level means one is better than the other.

          No, I imagine it’s all computerized. It would be hard enough to whiteboard your own organization much less do it for all 30 teams.

      • Chris F
        August 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm

        I have mixed feelings on this, largely because “the best” is commonly in the eye of the beholder. It’s not easy to compare a high schooler with a guy graduating college. I also think best can accompany need, and when those circles come close, I would draft need as a priority.

        • August 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm

          My concern is taking that approach leads to rationalizations and the definition of “close” expands way past the commonly accepted one.

  4. MattyMets
    August 10, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Nice post, Charlie. A few points:
    1) Weren’t the Yankees on Bruce’s no-trade team list?
    2) Alderson clearly has a strategy in mind stocking up on minor league relievers. Your guess is as good as mine.
    3) I see no harm in an out-of-contention team trading away pending free agents for minor leaguers.
    4) There’s a lot we don’t know.
    5) No matter how you slice it, this roster is going to look a lot different next year.

  5. grote
    August 10, 2017 at 8:31 am

    It’s unbelievabe to me that there are people around who can justify this Organization’s moves. I’ve been a fan since the 60s and I can no longer root for a team whose Owners and GM I despise.

  6. August 10, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Gotta agree. I wasn’t wild when I first heard we traded Bruce for nothing, but then that we turned down better deals to save a few million.

    MLB needs to do something about the ownership situation.

  7. Jimmy P
    August 10, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Picking up on Chris’s comment in a previous thread: Big series begins tonight in Philly, but I don’t know if we can catch them.

  8. Metsense
    August 10, 2017 at 8:46 am

    The Mets are not taking taking their resources, which is money already budgeted to the roster, and applying it instead to their minor league system. If they added money on the Duda, Reed and Bruce trade it would stand to reason that they would have bought more impact prospects. If they let it be known that they were picking up salaries then they would have likely increased the teams that wanted the Met players but couldn’t afford them. The Mets could have played off these teams and had a “bidding war” to obtain better prospects. These prospects would then “fatten” their minor league system and at the least could be used next July to obtain pieces for a playoff run like they did in 2016 when then obtained Bruce for Dilson Hererra. Ryder Reed is not as highly regarded as Hererra so it looks like a poor return. The Mets have wasted an opportunity to better improve their team during the 2017 trade deadline.

    • Jimmy P
      August 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Exactly.

      I think the Brewers clear needs at 2B and CF — along with their budget restrictions — make them an excellent case in point.

  9. Oops
    August 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

    6-8 weeks of a veteran just doesn’t buy too much any more. Ask the Tigers GM.

    Editor’s Note – You’ve now used the following user names — Oops, Koos, Popeye, Alex, Dudd, Ironman77, Milo, Jerry k, Scott and probably others. You need to pick one user name and stick with it. And it’s bogus to post something under one user name and then agree to it with another user name.

  10. Eraff
    August 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Brian… they focused on an area and a time frame with the players against a growing backdrop of clear need for bullpen arms in the game, universally.

    You could argue that the direction is wrong or right…. I’m just observing that they’ve pursued a Strong Position on building bullpen talent and depth—- with my best guess that it also involved a tight focus on the specific player talent involved.

    I like the idea that it’s a Plan

    • Eraff
      August 10, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Smith on the Launch Pad??? … or are they gonna get Rosario sleeping though the night first?

      Are Walker and Droobs still in the way?

    • Jimmy P
      August 10, 2017 at 11:35 am

      For Bruce, the Mets picked up a 30th round pick from last season who has a nearly 5.00 ERA.

      A face-saving body to fool the easily fooled.

      “We’re building depth in the system!”

      They are dumping salary.

      The return for Reed looks better — 3 Vic Blacks! — and I agree that the system was sorely lacking in live arms. You can’t win without a quality bullpen and it has been a travesty (criminal neglect?) to see the bums the Mets have rolled out all season long.

      Forget the rest. I think Blevins should pitch to everyone, all the time.

  11. Eraff
    August 10, 2017 at 11:45 am

    ok…. tell me about the teams that received great returns on vets during the past month

  12. Chris F
    August 10, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Eraff, you and I are often on a Vulcan mind meld, and this time is no different. I agree with pretty much all you have pointed out.

    Here’s some of my thoughts.

    As Matt said, the Yankees were on Bruce’s no trade list, so all the hysteria centered around dealing with the Yankees may very well be complete non sense. Furthermore, I read that neither NYY prospect was in their top 30. Add to that, helping the Yankees is not the job of the Mets, and well, any trade like the Duda or Bruce considerations were almost certainly non starters. Bad optics no matter how you cut it.

    Why you get for a rental has clearly evolved. Part of the game, especially when power bats are a dime a dozen. I really like Duda and Bruce and sorry to see them leave. That said we got to 11 under .500 with them. Why on earth is keeping them through the season, which is lost, important, only to get exactly zero in return if they sign elsewhere? We have 5 shots at uncovering a major leaguer. The other option was zero. Worrying about seats in the stands for this season with the goal of racing to low-mediocre is as lousy a plan for success as imaginable. I hope they can move Granny and Droobs too for more A level pen arms. We might not catch the Phitin’ Phils, but I’ll take a whole team of our kids for the next 2 months to find out “if anyone here can play this game” and improve our draft.

    Speaking of that, we don’t know what scouting is going on, and maybe the team is very focused on a possible piece in the off season. Not worrying about the record will only help secure that possibility. If unloading the vet pending FAs nets anything in return, the duty of the FO is to take it.

    Rich Coutinho tweeted that the Mets feel pitching era has ballooned thanks to poor “up the spine” defense: C, 2B, SS, CF. I’d say, well “duh”, but perhaps they are seeing how important that really is, much like many of us here learned over decades of playing and watching this great game. Why Alderson and Co. are late to party I’ll never know, but maybe positive changes are coming. It starts with finding out if any talent in AAA actually exists (…I doubt it personally…). Clearly new faces are coming to the team.

    Lastly, it’s super easy to take the Wilpons out behind the woodshed for a delightful cheapskate beating. I don’t like them at all, but I think there might be more to this than being only cheap. Didn’t we just sign Ces to the largest off season contract less than a year ago? Hasn’t payroll steadily increased in recent years? Similarly it would be easy to club Alderson in the noggin too for how he has handled the finances. I wouldn’t interfere with either. That said this salary unloading may be part of a plan to roll it into next year, and I’d rather have that money then for FA or draft salaries than eating it for another prospect, especially with Granny and Droobs wearing “for sale” signs around their necks.

    Lastly, there is a lot we just don’t know because we are far away from the internal discussions.

    I think Matt said next year will look very different. I agree, and I’m glad it will be. Keeping mostly the same roster is akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Let the kids play, and then let’s draft better.

    • Jimmy P
      August 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      At beginning of season, New York Mets were ranked 13th in MLB in payroll. That ranking might get lower with these savings. It doesn’t mean that haven’t spent, it means that haven’t spent aggressively or proportionately.

      In regards to rolling salary over into next year, hey, that’s wonderful and it makes strategic sense — except I don’t believe it.

      • Chris F
        August 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm

        I’m no fan of the Wilpons. I think their financial handling of this team is shameful. But they have spent a lot of money overall and we’ve seen improvement since Madoff. We always say this team needs to spend like it’s in a major market and we all get that. I just can’t help but wonder if they really have the money to give to Alderson. According to Steve Phillips, the Wilpons wanted to win, and plowed money back to the team so that it wasn’t a huge money making venture overall. I’m not saying I know anything, just that I expect the decisions are more complex than having a single factor.

        They have added like 22M$ in pastb2 years.

        • August 10, 2017 at 10:27 pm

          I get the impression that the Wilpons agreed to carry Bruce’s salary so long as they were in contention for a playoff spot. Once the decision was made that the team was not going to make the playoffs the order to slash payroll was given to Sandy? Was the front office going to give him or Duda a QO? I think not. Then again they’re in the same situation with Granderson and Walker (I know can’t do for W). So we’ll see how long it takes Alderson to move these two. By removing these two from payroll, the Mets will save about 9,8 million dollars add this to Duda and Reed (about 5.5). So that’s about 15.5 million coming off the books. Finally I would imagine that the Wilpons have insurance on Wrights’ contract so that they probably saved there as well. Brings the team payroll for 2017 closer to 2016 level.

  13. Chris F
    August 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    According to Ken rosenthal, Bruce would have waved his no trade clause to be traded to a contender.

  14. Eraff
    August 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Jim—if they were in it, they would have added—Sandy has shown that. I’m not a Sandy-Wilpon Fan, but they have been Managing Payroll toward Success—- The Pitching has been young and Cheap—and they didn’t walk away from replenishing the payroll in the off-season…it just doesn’t apply as a Critique.

  15. Steve S.
    August 10, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Dom Smith is finally getting called up and will start tomorrow.

  16. August 11, 2017 at 3:43 am

    The baseball commissioner should have taken the team away from Jeff Wilpon. When he went through all the legal problems of being a underhand crook. Back when Baseball started out. The image of baseball was suppose to be a clean image. The Commissioner had the right to take the team away from the Owner. If the Owner is a low life like Wilpon is

  17. Chris B
    August 12, 2017 at 9:12 am

    The best part of the trade is the money off the books which we can only hope is redistributed in the off-season. Only time will tell.

    This may be an oversimplification but I would rather $4m and a 55 (a made up value on a scale of 100) minor leaguer than a 65 player and no money. Is giving up $4m worth the slightly better return?

    Do we know for a fact that Alderson wasn’t asking for the 65 to 75 flyers? Have we considered that Jay Bruce just isn’t that good and power hitters aren’t valued in this market?

    Let’s see where the money goes. I have faith. Let’s go Mets.

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