At the outset of the 2017 campaign, there was a large group of Mets fans who didn’t even want Jay Bruce on the team. The sentiment was understandable seeing as how the 30-year-old outfielder doesn’t play very effective defense anymore and appeared to be blocking the development of budding star Michael Conforto.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that those same fans who wanted Bruce gone were bemoaning his departure when the Mets traded him to Cleveland in August, but I’ll bet they missed him a lot more than they thought they would. That’s because Bruce was a much more effective player for New York in the first two-thirds of the 2017 season than he was for the final third of 2016.
Right out of the gate, there was no question about whether the Citi Field faithful were chanting “booooo” or Bruuuuuce.” The former Cincinnati standout hit .292/.370/.584 in April, including a pair of two-home-run performances that carried the Mets to wins over the rival Phillies. Although Bruce cooled off in May, he roared right back in June with eight long balls for his most powerful month of the campaign.
Bruce’s on-base percentage dipped in July with just four walks compared to 28 strikeouts, but he kept on mashing with three home runs in three games from July 4 to July 8. That led to seven home runs for the month and some more attention from contending clubs that needed a little pop in the lineup. The July 31 trade deadline passed without Bruce being dealt, but just over a week later, the Mets worked out a deal with Cleveland, moving the slugger to northeast Ohio in exchange for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.
In 103 games for New York in 2017, Bruce hit .256/.321/.520 with 29 home runs and about three WAR. The Mets gave away more value for Bruce than they got back when they traded him to Cleveland, but at least he provided the club with four solid months of leadership and some of his very best baseball.
The Bruce detractors ended up being right. New York as a franchise would be a little better off if it never acquired the former top prospect in the first place. However, that’s mostly due to the Mets failing to perform in 2017. Had the rest of the club played up to par and stayed a little healthier, Bruce might have been an integral part of another New York pennant run. Instead, he ended up helping the Indians quite a bit, hitting .248/.331/.447 for his new team in August and September before blasting a home run in each of the first two games of the ALDS, both Cleveland victories.