Bruce Wasn’t Worth The Qualifying Offer
One of the reasons Mets fans were angry about the return of Ryder Ryan for Jay Bruce was the fact many believed the Mets could have offered Bruce a qualifying offer, and they then could have recouped a second round pick when Bruce signed a big deal elsewhere. While we all should be able to agree Ryan was not second round value, the point that Bruce would automatically reject a qualifying offer is flawed.
This past offseason teams have shown they no longer value players like Bruce the way they once did. If the Mets inability to move Bruce this offseason wasn’t any indication, and if the return the Mets got for Bruce wasn’t any indication, then look at what happened to Mark Trumbo last year.
Trumbo took a one year flier with the Orioles, and he had a monster year leading the majors with 47 homers. In total, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 27 doubles, a triple, 47 homers, and 108 RBI. That was good for a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+.
On the strength of this season, the 30 year old Trumbo would reject the qualifying offer only to be met with a tepid free agent market. Without Trumbo being able to garner the interest he believed would be present, he went back to the Orioles on a three year $37.5 million deal.
The conclusion that can be best drawn for this is the market just doesn’t value sluggers the way it once did. With the qualifying offer being worth around $18 million next year, there was a very real chance Bruce was going to accept that qualifying offer meaning the Mets got no draft pick compensation.
It would also mean the Mets outfield would have been a disaster defensively. We know Bruce is not a center fielder, and we also know Yoenis Cespedes no longer belongs out there. The argument would be Michael Conforto could. He has shown he can handle it in spurts, but long term that is a bad proposition. In 327.2 innings there, Conforto has a -2 DRS and a 0.2 UZR.
Seeing how the Mets played this year, the biggest thing they need to do is to upgrade defensively. That goes double for key defensive positions like shortstop and center field. Fortunately, the Mets have Amed Rosario at short. Who knows if the answer is Juan Lagares or a name outside the organization for center. The one thing we do know it’s not Bruce.
There’s another consideration as well. The Mets need to make wholesale changes this offseason, which is going to require a lot of money. For a team that took a lesser return for Bruce partially due to the savings it brought them, we should worry about Bruce’s $18 million hindering the Mets ability to fully address all of the teams needs just like it happened last year when Neil Walker accepted his qualifying offer.
Overall, the Mets needed to trade Bruce to get some return for him. The return was lackluster for many, but in reality, it reflects more upon how teams value sluggers like Bruce. At a minimum, the Mets got something for him, and they have freed up playing time for Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo. All they have to do now is actually play those players.