While the Mets front office continues searching high and low for a second baseman, reports surfaced yesterday that there was mutual interest between the Mets and outfielder Jay Bruce. While figuring out the rotation, infield and middle relief might be an enigma, this one move seems like a no-brainer.
Bruce has already proven himself in New York. Yes, he struggled when first traded here, but that could be chalked up to the understandable jitters of an anxious new dad having to change teams and cities in mid-season. Last year, mostly as a Met, and partly as a Cleveland Indian, Bruce produced one of his best seasons with a career high 36 home runs to go with 101 RBIs. Is he a perfect player? Of course not. He’s a roughly average fielder, he’ll never steal a base, and of his 10 big league seasons, only one featured a batting average over .265. He also strikes out at a pretty good clip.
On the positive side, he’s a proven lefty power hitter who can be counted on to hit 30 plus home runs every year, he can play right field or first base, he’s a good clubhouse guy, and, get this, he’s durable. Unlike many of his former and maybe future Mets teammates, Bruce is not all that familiar with the disabled list. The Mets need more guys like that. And they also need more veterans in the clubhouse who can set an example for the younger players and step up to talk to the media, which Bruce showed he was comfortable with in New York.
Another reason why this move makes so much sense is Bruce’s familiarity with the team. He not only knows the players but he already knows Mickey Callaway from his stint in Cleveland. Granted there’s not a ton of interaction between a right fielder and pitching coach, but surely these two became acquainted sharing a clubhouse, dugouts and airplanes through the playoffs last year. Bruce is familiar with the confines of Citi Field, the ubiquity of the New York press, and the logistics of spring training in Port St. Lucie. He could show up to Tradition Field on February 17th like he never left.
Signing Bruce would fill a number of needs. It would solidify the middle of the order. Having Michael Conforto batting second or third with Yoenis Cespedes and Bruce behind him would make for a formidable RBI trio. It would solidify the outfield. In addition to those three, with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo we’d have the five guys we need. Yes, Conforto would have to play some center field, but with rest days, DH games, inevitable injuries, and games when Bruce could play first base, there would be plenty of playing time for Lagares and games for Conforto to play the corners. And speaking of first base, if Dominic Smith can’t emerge from the doghouse, a platoon of Bruce and Flores at first base would be a solid alternative, at least offensively.
As far as contract demands, with sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez available, not to mention the three free agent hitters from Kansas City, half the Marlins lineup and maybe Jose Abreu, Bruce should not be in super high demand. Something in the neighborhood of four years and $15 to $18 million average per season should get it done. So, Sandy Alderson ,make the call and then turn your attention to finding us a lead-off hitting infielder.