Jay Bruce Solves Some Problems While Exacerbating Others
Right now, if you were going to list what the Mets problems were, two things that would be discussed ad nauseaum would be the offense and hitting with runners in scoring position. While it has not been discussed as frequently, Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Juan Lagares‘ injuries also make center field an issue for the Mets.
The Mets acquisition of Jay Bruce presumably solves the first two Mets problems while only further confounding the center field issue.
First, the offense. There is no doubt that Jay Bruce is your classic left-handed slugger that should be hitting in an RBI position in your lineup. This year Bruce is hitting .265/.316/.559 with 22 doubles, six triples, 25 homers, and a major league leading 80 RBI. He also isn’t a Great American Ballpark creation as Bruce has hit better on the road. In road games, Bruce has slashed .277/.318/.582. More importantly to Mets fans, Bruce is hitting .360/.406/.719 with runners in scoring position. Ideally, the Mets would bat him fifth in the lineup as Bruce has been hitting .290/.340/.603 from that spot in the order.
Still, there is some cause for concern with Bruce. As we see with his stats, he is not nor has he ever been a great on base guy. He is also a guy who is a platoon type of bat as he is hitting .250/.287/.491 off of lefties this year. With that in mind, the Mets might have just added a player that is more of the same.
He is also coming off two straight seasons that saw him hit a combined .222/.288/.406 while averaging 22 homers and 76 RBI. If his July, where he hit .218/.289/.529, is any indication, he might be becoming that type of player again. Furthermore, Bruce has not hit well at all in Citi Field. In 21 games, Bruce has hit .186/.275/.443 with five homers and 13 RBI. Hopefully, some of that is a short sample size and some of that is Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.
Regardless, Bruce is an offensive upgrade for an injured and under-performing Mets team. However, he is not a defensive upgrade for a team that needs a center field solution.
If reports are true, Bruce is being brought here to play right field rather than to play first base in place of James Loney. That would shift Granderson from right to center. As we saw in the one game Granderson played in center this year, there is a reason why he has not played center regularly since 2012. The other issue is that while Granderson has had a down year defensively in right field, he has been much better than Bruce, who has posted a -11.5 UZR and a -13 DRS this past year. Over the previous two seasons, Bruce has averaged a -5.2 UZR and a -1 DRS meaning he is worse this year than he has been over his career.
With Bruce’s struggles, Granderson’s inability to play center, and Yoenis Cespedes playing on one leg, this outfield should be reminiscent, if not worse, than the Cliff Floyd–Roger Cedeno–Jeromy Burnitz outfield that was seen as an unmitigated disaster defensively.
The other issue is where does this leave Michael Conforto? After everything that has happened this year, are the Mets really going to make him a bench player? Is he going to platoon with another left-handed batter? Does he move to first base? Aren’t you now forced to send him down to AAA until September call-ups? This really leaves your best young hitter and future of your team in a lurch. With all that in mind, it is a very curious move, especially when there was no corresponding move to address any of the Mets other needs.
Overall, Bruce solves some of the Mets problems while exacerbating some others. The best way to deal with all of these issues is for both he and his new teammates to just go out there and hit.