The Mets have checked in on Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. If that trade rumor sounds familiar, it’s probably because the Mets did the same thing a year ago and nearly traded Zack Wheeler for Bruce.
At the time, the left-handed-hitting Bruce was in the midst of his second-straight disappointing season. After hitting roughly twenty percent better than league average from 2010 through 2013, Bruce struggled mightily in 2014 and was a notch below league average in 2015. This year, however, he’s bounced back nicely, as he’s hit .271/.323/.572 with 25 home runs in 393 plate appearances.
The problem with Bruce, though, is his defense. He’s rated very poorly in right field this year by both DRS and UZR/150. Single-season defensive metrics shouldn’t be weighted too heavily, but it’s been a while since both metrics rated him positively. The Mets also have plenty of corner outfielders already in Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Curtis Granderson. With Juan Lagares on the disabled list, they have Alejandro De Aza and Brandon Nimmo on the roster right now, too, which makes four of their five outfielders left-handed hitters. Bruce has played right field for all but one-third of an inning that he spent in center field this year. He played 26.0 innings at first base in 2014 and hasn’t played at all in center field or left field since 2008, when he played a bit of both.
If the Mets think Bruce could play first base, perhaps that would make him more appealing in a trade. He’s earning $12.5 million this year and has a team option for $13 million for 2017 with a $1 million buyout. That’s a reasonable salary, even if his production in 2014-15 was a bit alarming, but the lack of a position that fits the Mets would make a trade for Bruce a bit surprising.