Jay Bruce’s tenure with the Mets has not gone swimmingly so far. When the Mets traded Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell to the Reds for Bruce at the trade deadline in 2016, he came to New York sporting a .265/.316/.559 line with an .875 OPS and a 124 wRC+. If he was able to keep up that offensive pace, he would have been exactly what the Mets needed.
But he did not keep up that production. In his first six weeks with the team, Bruce hit just .174/.252/.285—just a paltry 43 wRC+—and he began losing playing time in September. Analysis shows pitchers adjusted to what Bruce was doing and easily exploited his weaknesses. He was able to perk his numbers up by knocking four home runs and posting a 1.536 OPS over his final eight games of the season, but that did little to overshadow his prolonged, brutal slump.
The Mets entered the offseason with the goal of moving an outfielder, and Bruce was the most likely trade candidate, being on the final year of his contract and probably more of a DH at this point. But despite incessant specualtion and rumors swirling the entire winter, a trade never materialized, likely due to Bruce’s $13 million price tag.
In January, the Mets informed Bruce that he will assume the starting right field position when the season starts, officially ending the trade rumors for the time being. Bruce getting the starting nod likely comes at the expense of Michael Conforto, and it doesn’t seem like spring training has done anything to change that. But arguments in favor of starting Conforto instead have still not been few and far between.
The case against starting Bruce does seem logical, given his poor recent track record and his bad defense capping his overall ceiling. But whether he should be or not, Bruce will be the Mets’ right fielder to start the season, which many thought would not happen, including Bruce himself. But he is here, and he is ready to produce in 2017 and put everything else in the rearview mirror.
If he can make the necessary adjustments and somehow rekindle his production from early last season in Cincinnati, Bruce could silence critics and be a huge boost for a Mets team competing for a division crown in 2017.
Bruce has said he’s happy to still be on the Mets, even after an offseason where he knows they were actively looking to trade him. He has a chance this year to make the Mets and their fans glad the team hung on to him.