Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Mets fans are by and large a loyal lot. Every time they lose a player they bemoan that fact with tearful, “Oh, the humanity” type tirades and then welcome reunions with open arms. However, there are certain players who get on the wrong side of the fans, drawing their wrath and ire to the point of no return. The earliest one who comes to mind was Doug Sisk who, despite pitching to a career 3.10 ERA as a Met, was vilified and booed mercilessly.
Then came Bobby Bonilla, the player the fans loved to hate. He was almost universally loathed for taking the money and not delivering what was expected of him. He also produced an average of 32 HRs and 97 RBIs during his three years playing for the Mets in 1992 to 1994, but the fans were ready with pitchforks and torches.
Mel Rojas and Armando Benitez earned their wrath by usually pitching well, but blowing games when it counted most. Oliver Perez was universally despised for his contract size and poor performance – a barely-above .500 record, a 4.58 ERA and an unsightly 1.54 WHIP.
Next came the standard bearer for bad contracts, Jason Bay. Now the fans never really seemed to have it in for him on a personal level the way they did for some of the others. He was dealing with concussion after-effects and other maladies that contributed to his lackluster performance. The fans’ wrath in this case was more about the Wilpons who chose to go for him rather than Matt Holliday when they had the choice.
And then came Jay Bruce. Acquired in late 2016 for proclaimed 2nd baseman of the future Dilson Herrera, the fans were already irritated with his arrival. Nevermind that he was leading the National League in RBIs and already had 25 HRs under his belt.
His immediate output as a Met made people wish for the offensive prowess of John Mayberry, Jr. or Rick Ankiel. Yes, it was that bad. In fact, it wasn’t until the final week of the season when he turned in a .458 player-of-the-week type of output that the heretofore locked doors to the fans’ collective hearts edged open perhaps enough to deliver a piece of paper authorizing his 2017 option to kick in.
Still, it seems everywhere you turn there are articles proclaiming that the Mets should decline his option or exercise simply to trade him. While the former is flat out foolish, the latter could be as well depending on what the return is. After all, getting merely the proverbial bag-of-balls for a three-time All Star would add gasoline to the fire of the fans’ hostility. Let’s see what this guy is capable of doing.
On a 162 game average, Jay Bruce will deliver 31 HRs, 94 RBIs, a .248 batting average and 158 strikeouts. He’ll remind many of Lucas Duda as an outfielder and is a tick better as a hitter. He ought to be since he’ll be earning more than double what Duda is paid.
Delve a little deeper and there are somewhat troubling numbers. Remember, he became an All Star with half of his games in arguably one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball. There is a significant split on power. In 2283 home ABs he hit 138 HRs but in slightly more away ABs – 2367 – he hit only 103 HRs. That’s a 25% reduction in home runs as a result of being away from the cozy confines of The Great American Ballpark where he’s spent his entire career.
Therefore, if you extrapolate his career numbers and factor in a 25% reduction (perhaps more given Citifield’s reputation as a pitcher’s park), he’s likely to deliver a .240/22/70 line playing a full season with half his games in Queens. In today’s baseball economics, that may be worth $13 million. After all, that’s not far off from Curtis Granderson’s season which actually cost more money.
Yesterday one of our loyal readers suggested that the Mets actually try to trade away both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. At first I thought the notion was too drastic, but do you really think that Michael Conforto playing every day couldn’t approach .240/22/70? I think he can. I also think that if by some miracle they retain Yoenis Cespedes, then the $27 million in salary savings for those two lefty sluggers gone in trade can help provide other solutions. Put a Jay Bruce in another hitter’s park like Colorado and he’ll flourish. Put him in Queens for a year and, well, people would probably rather see Cousin Brucie out in RF.
Sign him, but trade him. I’m most definitely on board with that approach.