The Mets and Former OF Jay Bruce locked down a 3yr/$39M contract on Wednesday night. The Former Mets player was traded at the deadline to the Indians for Ryder Ryan. The original deal was more about shedding future payroll than getting any substantial prospects in return.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the contract is back-loaded, with Bruce owed only $10M in this approaching season, and then 14.5$ in ‘19 and ‘20. Between the Indians and Mets, Bruce had his best season since 2013 with the Reds. Bruce finished the season with 36 HR, 101 RBI while slashing .254/.324/.508. He was worth 2.7 fWAR over his 146 games played, after being only worth 0.1 fWAR over the previous 3 seasons combined.
Mets fans are still trying to figure out where Bruce will fit in the Mets lineup. Bruce has shown the ability to play a “passable” first base and looks poised to split time with young Dom Smith. Smith looked overwhelmed by his first taste of the majors and will have a shot to lock down first base full time in the spring. But what about Jay Bruce’s natural position in the outfield? The Mets have a logjam in the outfield and various degrees of question marks. First things first, Yoenis Cespedes is the Mets every-day left fielder without question. That leaves CF, and RF open. When healthy, Michael Conforto should get everyday at-bats. With his current shoulder injury, we have heard reports he should be back in April, but nothing is definite yet. Should he be sidelined for an extent that would leave Bruce in right field and Gold Glover Juan Lagares in center.
But the real question that all Mets fans are asking, was this the correct move?
When I learned about Bruce being back with the Mets, my initial thoughts were: How long? How Much? He had reportedly been looking for a deal in the 5/$70-80M range, which is aggressive. So when the reports trickled in at 3/$39M it eased my nerves. Bruce is still only 30 (Shocking, I know) and is coming after his best offensive and defensive season in years.
Kevin Long has preached fly balls to the Mets hitters and hitting fly balls is one of Bruce’s staples. He had a career-high 46.7% fly ball rate in 2017 and he posted his highest Hard% in his career at 40.3%. This isn’t the first time the Mets have had a hitter reinvent themselves under Long; look at Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy as examples. At $39M, the Mets need Bruce to produce 5 fWAR over his three-year contract to produce enough value for the contract to be worth it. The Mets seem to hope that the new and improved 2017 Jay Bruce will be the new normal, and his struggles in the past season are in the past. Only time will tell whether this contract was worth it for the Mets.