One of the myriad decisions the Mets have to make in the coming weeks is what to do with Jay Bruce in 2017. Part of the appeal of trading for Bruce at the non-tender trade deadline was that he could be a Met past the end of the 2016 season, though Bruce’s time in New York was far from what the Mets hoped it would be. An unnamed “MLB executive,” speaking to John Heyman, believes that the Mets could pick up Bruce’s $13 million option for 2017 and then trade him, seemingly with relative ease. Picking up the option would also give the Mets some time to figure out their outfield situation before eschewing Bruce.
The Mets had a glut of corner outfielders in 2016, and the possibility is there for the same problem to arise next season. Yoenis Cespedes has an opt-out clause that he is likely to exercise after the World Series, but he may return to the Mets on a longer-term deal. Curtis Granderson is signed through 2017, and Michael Conforto is in need of some playing time, while Brandon Nimmo has probably done all he can in Triple-A. Cespedes is the only right-handed corner outfielder the Mets would have—and only the second right-handed outfielder overall after center fielder Juan Lagares.
Bruce’s contract is quite affordable considering his full season numbers—33 home runs, 27 doubles, and a 112 OPS+. Of course, his value diminished considerably over his time with the Mets, where he was in a serious slump for most of his tenure, hitting just .219/.294/.391 over his 50 regular season games as a Met.
Due to the various moving parts at play—the Cespedes opt-out, Granderson’s questionable ability to play center field, Conforto’s 2016 struggles—it seems to make sense for the Mets to pick up Bruce’s option and then decide what to do with him once some of the other questions begin to answer themselves, or at least until the organization can better gauge how it sees its outfield in 2017.
If the Mets choose to buy out Bruce’s option, that would cost them one million dollars.