By David Weiss
At first this move seemed strange. After dumping Jay Bruce for a no name minor leaguer in 2017, it seemed that Bruce’s tenure in Queens had ended for good. Had the Mets wanted to keep the right fielder, they could have given him a qualifying offer and either gotten him for a one year deal or at least received a high draft pick in return. True there was some speculation as to if Bruce would return, but with Conforto and Cespedes as the corner outfielders, it looed like a bad fit.
Never the less despite the obvious issues with this deal, the consensus is that this was a very good move by GM Sandy Alderson. Let’s have a look at the reasons why this move is more brilliant than people think.
For starters, Bruce is a serious but undervalued power hitter. In his ten big league seasons, Bruce has hit 21 or more home runs in all but one. Last season he hit over 30 dingers for the fifth time in his career. With only 272 career doubles, there is no doubting his huge offensive resume. Defensively, Bruce is not known for tremendous range but he has a strong arm. No it is not Cespedes level strong but it is nothing to snuff at. With 91 career assists, many teams know not to risk it. Being that right field is typically a position in which a team can hide a guy with bad range, his bat and arm will make up for his glove.
In terms of finances, the Mets did not break the bank. Three years for a total of $39 million is very reasonable. Bruce will be 33 years old at the end of his contract so the Mets aren’t risking a long term nightmare situation. What is also nice is that he does not need to be the star. In fact, one can argue that when everyone is healthy Bruce is the third best outfielder. Add in Nimmo and Lagares and the Mets have some serious depth in the outfield.
While Bruce is expected to be one of the big contributors, he is still not the main focus of the offense. At the same time, this gives the Mets youngsters some breathing room. Smith is no longer expected to be the big left bat on opening day. Once Conforto gets back, the Mets will have one of the best power hitting outfields in the game which will take a lot of the focus off Smith and Rosario.
Lastly, Bruce brings a winning attitude to the team. He goes out and plays hard every day. He has made it to the postseason 5 times. While he is a 3 time all-star, a strong case can be made that he was jipped last season. He was fourth in the NL in homers with 23 at the break. Toss in 59 RBI’s and a slash of .266/.334/.538 and you have a player who was robbed. The one gaping hole in his resume is that he is yet to reach a World Series. Perhaps he is hungry. Last years postseason sure seemed like it.
Like any signing, there are some question marks. The elephant in the room is centerfield. Is Conforto supposed to be the everyday centerfielder for the next three years? Also what does this mean for Lagares and Nimmo? Some have speculated that Nimmo turned a corner last year and could be a big producer if he gets more playing time. With regards to Lagares, it seems that he will be a defensive replacement and get some starts against lefties. Let’s not rule out a Lagares trade either before opening day.
Things just got better for the Mets. The Bruce signing is not a guarantee that the 2018 Mets will make the playoffs by any stretch of the imagination. However it was a good move that makes the team much more competitive.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page ‘Jewish Mets Fans’.)