You know the story.
Jay Bruce, after having a lackluster second half of 2016 and being traded from the Reds, redeems himself the following year, bolstering the Mets’ lineup with an above-average bat before being traded to the Cleveland Indians. Bruce hit .254/.324/.508 in the 2017 season, hitting 36 home runs for a 118 wRC+. His departure from the Mets’ lineup was felt immediately as the team traded away veteran after veteran. The Indians finished first in the AL Central but were unfortunately eliminated by the Yankees in the ALDS.
Now a free agent, Bruce stands on the verge of a large windfall. MLBTR is projecting a contract of three years, $39million. Teams that have called on him early are being told that he is looking for a deal in the range of five years between $80 and $90 million. That amount of money might be a bit of a stretch, especially as there seems to be a lack of demand for “older” power bats, but either way he figures to cash out somewhere.
At the beginning of the month, it was reported that the Mets were interested in bringing back Bruce, as their offseason wish list seems to include a corner outfielder that has some first base experience. The issue here is that Bruce has exactly 15 career games played at first, 11 of which coming this season with the Mets. He didn’t do terribly during those games, but it’s tough to consider him manning the corner in an extended part time role.
Let’s say that the Mets do decide to bring back Bruce. At the beginning of the offseason, it would have been easy to pencil him into right field during Michael Conforto’s absence. But with Conforto optimistically set to begin spring training on time, the presence of Bruce would recreate the all too familiar logjam the Mets had with the two players in 2017. The bottom line is that if Conforto is healthy, he belongs in the outfield and ideally not in center field. If this is true, then Bruce would need to essentially be the Mets’ starting first baseman, which he may not want to do and we might not like the on field defensive result.
Financials aside, and given the Mets’ other needs, I wouldn’t expect Bruce to find his way back to Flushing in 2018. There doesn’t seem to be a solid fit for him, so it makes little sense to commit to the kind of deal it would take to get him. He’ll likely find a home elsewhere, with the Indians, Rangers, and Astros all being potential suitors.