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Jay Bruce Returns To The Mets – Why?

The free agent market has been stagnant, and to the surprise of many, the Mets made a splash signing Jay Bruce to a backloaded three year $39 million contract.

Whenever a team makes a move, it tells you something about the team. It tells you something about how the team views both its postseason chances and the composition of their roster.

The problem with Bruce is you don’t know exactly what his signing is telling you about the team.

Conforto

Prior to Bruce signing, Michael Conforto was penciled in as the 2018 right fielder. At least, that is the case when Conforto was to return.

While the Mets have been publicly bullish on his return, they readily admit he won’t be ready by Opening Day. Beyond that, we don’t know because there is no timetable.

And even when he returns, we don’t know if he will return to his All Star form.

Are we to read the Bruce signing as Conforto being out longer than anticipated and/or the Mets being uneasy about what Conforto will be when he returns?

Lagares

Last year, Juan Lagares returned to his best defensive center fielder in baseball form with him leading all MLB center fielders in UZR/150.

As if this wasn’t enough to get you at least intrigued about him returning to an everyday role, Lagares is working with the coach who completely changed the course of J.D. Martinez‘s career.

That coaches helped Martinez go from a .250/.272/.378 hitter in 2013 to a .315/.358/.553 hitter the following season. For a point of reference, Lagares hit .250/.296/.365 last year.

If Bruce stays in right, this would mean Conforto would go to center when he comes off the DL thereby forcing Lagares to the bench.

Are the Mets really willing to make Lagares a high paid defensive replacement with him making $6.5 million this year and $9 million the next?  Is it possible the Mets aren’t interested in seeing whether Lagares could become at least an improved hitter thereby bringing him closer to the 5.5 win player they so eagerly extended prior to the 2015 season?

Dom

There’s no doubt Dominic Smith had a disappointing stint in the majors last year posting a -1.2 WAR in 49 games. After that stretch, the Mets let anyone who’d listen know they’ve soured on Smith. Even with them walking it back a bit, they still have been actively looking for a first baseman this offseason.

Here’s the thing – not only has Smith been getting in much better shape this offseason, but he’s also been a player who has gotten better after some early struggles at his new level.

Last year, Smith hit .324/.377/.498 in April in May. After that, he hit .336/.394/.537 until he was called up to the majors.

In Double-A in 2016, he hit .267/.317/.396 in April and May. After that, Smith hit .323/.397/.495.

What if Smith follows a similar path this season? Are you willing to bench him or demote him to Triple-A when he’s playing well?

Defense

One of the biggest issues with the 2017 Mets was their defense.  They did not have a positive defender anywhere across the field.  Things are going to be just as bad, if not worse, with this signing.

Likely, Bruce signing means an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce.  Last year, Conforto had a -4 DRS in center in just 328.2 innings there.  Based upon those numbers, why would the Mets actively look to put him in center not just this year, but over the next three years?

Also, why would you ask a player coming back from a significant shoulder injury to play a relatively unfamiliar position he has not had an opportunity to prepare to play this offseason?

This is asking for more poor defense from the Mets.  That become all the more puzzling when we are currently playing in an era where batters focus on hitting the ball in the air.

Money

Initially, it was believed the Mets had around $30 million to spend this offseason.  However, after the Anthony Swarzak signing and Sterling Equities getting involved in the Islanders Belmont arena, that number was reportedly lowered to just $10 million remaining to spend in free agency.

If we take a look at Bruce’s backloaded deal, you will notice he is slated to earn $10 million next year.  Is this really an accident?  If it isn’t does this mean the Mets just spent all of their money on a right fielder when they are already had one?  Why would you do that with huge holes on this roster including second base?

Building A Complete Roster

It is quite surprising Bruce was the choice.  Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas, Howie Kendrick, Lorenzo Cain, and Addison Reed remain free agents.  Each one of those players fills a real need on this roster.  Bruce is a luxury item that based upon budget reports prevents another move.

Such a move would be Jason Kipnis, who Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reports the Mets nixed a deal for him over money.  Whether that was before or after signing Bruce is not clear.  What is clear is the Mets still have limited resources, and they are now allocating them poorly.

Where to Go From Here

At the moment, the Mets are eventually going to be forced to figure out what to do with Lagares and Smith once Conforto is healthy.  However, that is a little down the road.  At the moment, the question is what do the Mets do to fill their other needs.

They just nixed Kipnis over $30.7 million over the next two years with a third year option.  Are we really to believe Josh Harrison and his being owed $11.5 million with successive options is that much more palatable?  If so, can we really believe the Mets will get him over teams like the Yankees who have a much deeper farm system?

Also, what are the Mets going to do to address the rest of the bullpen and their bench.  Seeing where the finances are, it is not likely the Mets do much.  This likely translates to a Jose Reyes reunion despite him being one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year posting a -1.7 WAR.

And that’s the problem.  Rather that looking to make significant improvements with their payroll constraints, Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons are going with a failed measure.  Add power.  Eschew defense.  Go with guys you like personally.  Hope it works out.  Well, it didn’t work in 2017, and with a worse roster heading into next year, it’s not likely to work again in 2018.

So overall, the Bruce signing really doesn’t address any problems, it creates more issues, and it likely assures the Mets will not be competing for a spot in the postseason next year.

 

17 thoughts on “Jay Bruce Returns To The Mets – Why?”

  1. Luis says:

    Let’s redo the 2017 team that was SOOO good…Amazing..I like Bruce, but he is not an answer to this team. They need to shore up the Defense in order to play to the (presumed) strength, Pitching…plus Bruce makes us older, and that is not good…

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Agreed. I like Bruce. He is a quality player. He doesn’t fulfill a need.

  2. Gothamist says:

    My positive spin on Bruce signing:

    His durability
    His clutch bat
    His consistency
    His veteran role modeling and leadership
    His friendhip with Cespedes for the next three years
    His friendship for Reyes and Cabrera will not be here in 2019
    He plays corner outfield positions
    His willingness to learn first base

    THAT THERE WAS NO WAY JD OR THE KC TRIO COMING HERE FOR ANYTHING THE BELMONT WILPONS AFFORD

    1. metsdaddy says:

      There are positives to the Bruce signing. However, they don’t outweigh the negatives with the main negative being you now cannot build a complete roster.

  3. Five Tool Ownership says:

    As much as I wanted speed, youth and versatility in playing multiple positions this was the best we could have hoped for.

    If the Giants signed Bruce, with the current constraints that the eGames franchisee Wilpons gave Sandy Alderson or have since the 2015 World Series NO PITCHER SIGNED FOR 2019 we did OK.

    PLAN B?

    Howie Kendrick?

  4. Gothamist says:

    Dom Smith certainly overcame some doubt on his HR production in MLB, we can maintain certainty on his plus fielding plus hitting for an average yet he has shown a past of starting from humble beginnings that he did need time to adjust, to get focused and he does better with structure and support.

    Smith has made strides w his weight previously, traction at times modest, his further commitment and a guy like Bruce to share some first base training in the next 2-3 years in Florida is a max scenario.

    Go sign Kendrick also…

    I relish any opportunity to trash irresponsible over their heads financially self absorbed ownership but considering that NYC is enabling them to stay as owners, the tactic acceptance if their perpetual frugality and spending money elsewhere on eGames, Belmont, Flushing Dev w Related Companies, siphoning off profits to SNY, no pitcher signed for 2019 (Like wealthier Minnesota?) no action since the WS THIS OFF SEASON COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!!!

  5. Five Tool Ownership says:

    Is Lucas Duda headed to Korea?
    or the Yankees?

  6. Gothamist says:

    Daddio, Eduardo Nunez or Todd Frazier and why, the pros and cons on signing either?

  7. Gothamist says:

    Buy low!

    I prefer taking chances on players who under pressure do not excel in their walk years yet they may not be clutch hitters….

    So, not a contending team I would nibble on Lucas Duda…
    a one year deal….

    1. metsdaddy says:

      That’s not moving the needle at all. They need a second baseman

  8. Gothamist says:

    They had a second baseman !

    They did not ante up on two years salary on a palatable Kipnis trade and hurt themselves. Kipnes plays outfield. That would have been really a nice extra,

    Cleveland could then not afford Carlos Santana and Santana took the money from Philly, a Met division foe. So the Mets face Santana up to 18 times a year.

    Now they have many players for 2nd and third and no one to sell high on.

    Do not be surprised if Phil Evans comes in as a non roster guy and plays great in spring training.

    I recommend they give Reyes a minor league offer.

    I wonder who was in that Kipnis deal they initially approved?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Evans had a great Spring. I’d be shocked if he played well enough all year to justify his playing everyday

  9. Gothamist says:

    I can not tell much about his range.

    He seems to be average speed at best but almost scores .5 runs per game and has improved his OBP consistently.

    What happened on 2016 to warrant the huge jump in his BA, PCL AAA?

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=evans-002phi

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Was his BABIP. Hits just stopped falling, which was predictable.

  10. Five Tool Ownership says:

    “The Giants’ top offer to Jay Bruce was at the three-year level but would have promised about $10MM less to him than the $39MM he ultimately scored from the Mets, according to reports from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle”

    1. metsdaddy says:

      That one surprises me. Thought he was a good fit in SF

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