The Mets need another power bat in their lineup to compete in the NL East. That much is a given. The question, though, is which of the available free agents is the best fit on both sides of the equation. A homecoming with their right fielder of last season is making more and more sense.
In the transactions section of Baseball Reference’s Jay Bruce page, the following are of note: August 1, 2016: Traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Mets for Max Wotell (minors) and Dilson Herrera. August 9, 2017: Traded by the New York Mets to the Cleveland Indians for Ryder Ryan (minors).
Two trades, both in the middle of consecutive seasons which can only be qualified as a salary dump, once by the Reds and once by the Mets, for no one in return and a see ya later, don’t let the door kick you in the ass note attached.
Jay Bruce, of course, went on to help power the Indians almost to the World Series, finishing the 2017 season with 36 home runs and 106 RBI. In turn, those numbers propelled Bruce into an attractive Hot Stove free agent.
As far back as August 29 and after his trade to the Indians, Bruce was indicating a willingness to sign with the Mets for the 2018 season and beyond.
Which is quite a statement from a man who came close to being driven out of town by New York media and Mets fans in the first weeks and months following his arrival in the Big Apple.
Jay Bruce changes lineup dramatically
From the Mets standpoint, Bruce is attractive as a power bat to complement Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto in their outfield. Plus, he is affordable, even for the Mets. According to MLB Daily Dish, Bruce is seeking a contract of $60-80 million over five years, which seems reasonable for a player who will be 31 when the new season begins.
The addition of Bruce will relegate Juan Lagares if he isn’t traded, to the fourth outfielder on the team. Given his propensity for injury, it’s probably where Lagares belongs, anyway.
Assuming that Mets pitching can rebound from an injury-riddled season, with Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey stepping up to take the load off Jacob deGrom, with Bruce in there, the Mets lineup suddenly undergoes a dramatic change with the potential to score runs.
From there, Sandy Alderson’s task would be to shore up the bullpen through addition and subtraction of middle relievers, the sore spot of the Mets last season. For Alderson, the pursuit of Jay Bruce, who he worked so hard to get rid of last season, is ironic.
But that’s the way it is in baseball. What goes around, sometimes comes around. And neither the Mets or Bruce should fight it.