For three months, this past off-season, the Mets desperately tried to trade Jay Bruce.
They exercised the option on his contract as insurance for Yoenis Cespedes leaving as a free agent, but when the slugger re-upped for four years, Bruce was on the market.
Unfortunately, so were a number of other sluggers.
So here is the 30 year-old, still in Flushing as the season opens Monday, something that surprised Bruce as well as everyone else.
And even with the trade talk, there’s no hard feelings.
“I didn’t concern myself with that, honestly,” Bruce said. “I decided I’d wait until something happened, if it happened. Had they decided to deal me, there would’ve been no hard feelings. I understand well the business of baseball. But I’m glad I’m still here to see how this plays out. I’m expecting some fun things.”
Unlike past failures, like Jason Bay, you must think Bruce will bounce back this season. At the time of the trade on Aug. 1, he was leading the National League in runs batted in and hit 241 homers as a Red, which is why the Mets made the deal.
You have to think Bruce is still that player and didn’t leave all his talent in the smokestacks of The Great American Ballpark, even with a disappointing two months in New York, hitting .219 with eight homers and 19 RBI.
“He truly believes he’s the guy we went and traded for,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s determined to be that guy for us.”
And the last week of the season when the Mets were looking for wins to clinch a Wild Card, Bruce stepped up hitting, .480 with four of those home runs and eight RBI.
So maybe, Bruce isn’t Jason Bay or Roberto Alomar, both of whom were talented players that came here at the wrong times of their careers. But he could be Luc Robitaille, who was enjoying a Hall of Fame journey before being traded to the Rangers in the mid-1990s. The sniper saw the bright lights of Broadway as green Kryptonite.
Only when he left the Rangers did Robitaille resume his Hall of Fame resume.
This could be the case with Bruce, who might not be cut out for New York. He’s from Texas and played his whole career in the small market of Cincinnati. Thrust into the pennant race, he wilted and the Mets were forced to wait until Cespedes came back to resume their run to the playoffs.
Bruce now has a clean slate. Unlike last season, he is batting down in the lineup and will be hitting sixth, behind Neil Walker and in front of Lucas Duda. There’s not going to be the same pressure on him this season as there was during the pennant race, so maybe that will help him.
And Bruce says he’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s a long season, a lot of expeditions,” Bruce said. “We’re all looking forward to getting in here and fulfilling those expectations.”
Is he Bay, Robitaille, or is he the real Jay Bruce?
We will find out Monday.