This past off-season the Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson had a few priorities. First and foremost was his lineup, specifically re-signing star Yoenis Cespedes. While the Mets waited to hear from Cespedes, they exercised what seemed like a pretty reasonable option in Jay Bruce’s contract, 13 million dollars for the 2017 season.
At the time the Mets had a group of outfielders including Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares. At the end of November the Mets did end up re-signing Cespedes and in the minds of the front office that made Bruce expendable. He had hit a measly .219 with 8 Home Runs and 19 RBIs in his 50 games with the Mets last season. He didn’t play well, didn’t adjust to New York well, and the fans were quick to judge him.
As the off-season continued, the fact that Bruce was imminently going to be traded was an everyday story. Since Alderson’s only other major priority was the bullpen, the conversation focused around what proven reliever the Mets could get for Bruce. Rumor after rumor floated in. But no team was willing to part with proven Major League talent for Bruce, a player who had hit 33 homers the year before.
That was where the market sat this off-season. Eric Thames who was coming off of an incredible power surge in Korea was given a three year, 15 million dollar contract. Chris Carter, who led the league in homers with 41, last year, got a one year deal for 3.5 million. Teams were not interested in one-dimensional sluggers.
Now, midway through the season, Bruce is a “revelation” to many. He has produced in bunches in 2017. His 19 Home Runs are tied for third in the National League behind Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger and the afore-mentioned Eric Thames.
While just a week ago, with reinforcements coming in droves, the Mets looked primed to turn things around. Though, a few injuries later and a bad showing against the East leading Nationals, it is time to start taking stock. The first asset to evaluate is Bruce.
Home Runs are on pace to set an all time high in baseball during the 2017 season. That means that though Bruce is having a typical year, as a trade chip, many others are having similar seasons.
The other consideration is to hold on to Bruce until this upcoming off-season when he is set to hit Free Agency. The Mets could give him a Qualifying Offer, in the hopes he turns it down and then signs elsewhere. That would entitle the Mets to an additional first round pick in next year’s Draft. However, if Bruce accepts the offer, the Mets are stuck with him at a high cost.
So what is Jay Bruce’s value? It seems like the safest bet would be a trade before the deadline in July. And for the Mets, they would no longer need to prioritize help at the Major League level. There will be a team like the still in it Twins or Blue Jays who will be willing to part with some coveted young prospects to add a power bat to their lineups. And at this point, for the Mets, that is the best case scenario.