Reese Kaplan -- Could Jay Bruce Have a Mets Future?


While many people routinely take potshots at Sandy Alderson for a variety of reasons, he’s actually had a few defenders emerge from the woodwork regarding the whole Jay Bruce situation.  These folks are all pretty much trumpeting the same tune – that Bruce is in a contract year prior to free agency and will likely have extra motivation to do well, you can’t just dump a 30 HR hitter for a bag of balls, and Michael Conforto has not yet done in the majors what Bruce has done for many years.

It’s an interesting conundrum and certainly not the worst problem in the world to have – too many left handed power hitters.  With Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, the Mets have a triumvirate of 30 HR hitters who, if healthy, could actually propel them out of the lower tiers of run production in the National League.  All three are playing the final years of their contracts before becoming free agents, so it occurred to me to try to ascertain what they might be worth when that time rolls around.

Bruce is probably the easiest one to figure out.  There’s an excellent comp in Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo.  He just re-upped with the Orioles for 3 years and $37.5 million, an average of $12.5 million per year.  For reference, Bruce is making $13 million right now, so that’s right on track with what you’d expect to pay.  How close are they offensively?  Well, the soon-to-be-31 Trumbo averages 34 HRs, 99 RBIs and .251 with 163 Ks.  He provides an OBP of .303, SLG of .473 and OPS of .776.  His one year younger mirror image doppelganger provides 31 HRs, 94 RBIs and a .248 AVG with 158 Ks.  He provides an OBP of .318, SLG of .467 and OPS of .785.  Consequently a 3 year $37.5 to $39 million contract would seem to be what he’s reasonably worth.

Now the question becomes would the Mets be interested?  In Trumbo’s favor he could play 1B or the OF.  He’s spent almost equal amounts of time in both positions whereas Bruce is exclusively an outfielder with just 3 games at 1B.  However, left handed bats are often more difficult to obtain than right handed, so that tips the scales in Bruce’s favor a bit.  Call it a wash.  That brings us back to the question of whether or not he fits on the Mets?

Well, if you assume Curtis Granderson is a goner given his age, declining production and big price tag, then there is an opening in the OF for sure.  Whether or not Conforto could become a passable CFer is anyone’s guess at this point but Jay Bruce’s best position is probably DH.  They paid Granderson more to play RF than what we’re projecting here for Bruce and with Trumbo’s deal as a yardstick they might be able to shave off that 4th year. 

Of course, a lot depends on what they intend to do at the 1B position as well.  In many ways Lucas Duda is a clone of Bruce and Trumbo – high power, high strikeouts, low batting average but at a lower price point.  He has had that back injury and will be watched like a hawk during 2017.  With Dom Smith working his way rapidly through the farm system, the Mets might be inclined to let him walk away, particularly if he has a subpar year due to poor production or injury.  Right now at $7.25 million for a 30 HR bat he’s a bargain but come 2018 he’ll be looking to cash in.  Would you bring him back?
Duda averages .246/26/81 with 144 Ks over a 162 game period.  His other metrics are actually a bit better than Trumbo or Bruce – OBP of .343 SLG of .449 and OPS of .792.  He’s had some injuries (most notably the back surgery in 2016).  A not perfect but adequate comp would be Kendrys Morales who spent much of his career at 1B before turning into a DH.  He averages .273/25/92 over 162 games.  He’s a switch hitter but older at 34.  He just recently signed a 3 year deal with Toronto for $33 million.  I’m thinking on that basis Duda is probably looking at about $27 to 30 million for 3 years. 

Personally I think you either have to extend Duda before the season ends or let him walk away.  You don’t want to get into the Neil Walker QO debacle again.  Extending him seems unlikely as it would block Dom Smith who would provide theoretically a higher batting average and better defense though lesser power.  More importantly to the bean counters, he would cost minimum wage whereas Duda would be in the $10 million or so range. 

My feeling is that the OF pipeline for the Mets is fairly thin.  Obviously Yoenis Cespedes is a fixture in LF.  Whether or not they feel Conforto can play CF is the issue.  It’s the reason I think they’ll send him to Las Vegas to play CF every day, more than to prove he can hit.  If he shows he’s capable of being adequate at the position then it opens up mid-year trade possibilities of Granderson.  If not, then it may be Bruce who they let walk at year end if Conforto’s bat looks solid but the CF play is not.  With at minimum Granderson’s and Duda’s money coming off the books, that’s $22 million – more than enough to absorb Bruce and have plenty left over for pitchers’ salary increases.  Remember, Bruce was not as bad as he looked in August and probably not as good as he looked in the final weeks of September.  The reality is that he’s pretty darned good with the bat, though…and if you want that then you have to pay for it.  

***Separate issue*** Many are applauding loudly for the Mets' 11th hour successes inking Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins to return to the club.  Don't get me wrong.  Those pitchers are fine additions and shore up a projected-to-be leaky bullpen.  It's what should have been done.  Whether those pitchers are the right ones is a subject of some debate, but you're certainly not going to be hurt by offering those contracts.

The problem is that the club is once again exercising its philosophy of maintaining the status quo.  Both of these pitchers (like Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker) were here last year.  The list of players who have departed (other than Bartolo Colon) likely won't be missed.  The issue is that the club is treading water instead of attempting to move forward.  Had you won the World Series then not changing a thing could perhaps be justified.  We all know they eked into the playoffs and were out after a single game.  You'd think that suggests there is room for improvement.

Celebrate the return of two fine pitchers but don't let up on demanding more.  


Thomas Brennan said...

Just read an article in which Cespedes admitted last yea his quad gave him a lot of problems all season. He is reported to be working out extremely hard. My feeling? .300, 45 homers, 120 RBI. If we get that from him, we won't be treading water.

Mack Ade said...

I'm sticking to my desire of Bruce playing every day in right field this upcoming season... or, at least until the all-star break.

Hobie said...

Who gets dropped from the 40-man for Blevins & Salas?

Mack Ade said...

Hobie -

My guess... Montero and Familia to the suspension list

Erik said...

What if Duda doesn't bounce back from the injury in Spring Training? Do you try giving Conforto the 1B job, or maybe platoon Conforto with Flores?

Since Duda is still in his arbitration years, it looks like they might be able to cut him and only pay a small portion of the contract he signed - if they couldn't trade him.


Pascack95 said...

I hear your point about "treason water" but in reality that is not the case. This team made the wild card last year despite major injuries to Harvey, DeGrom, Matz, Wheeler, Wright, Duda, Walker, Lagares, Flores and significant regressions from Conforto and D'arnaud. Looking back, the only players who really exceeded expectations last year (and maybe primed for regression) were Cabrera and Reed. Additionally, they are getting full years from Reyes, Bruce and Wheeler - none of whom were on the opening day roster last year. From that standpoint - i think this is the prism that Sandy looks at the roster.

Reese Kaplan said...

@Pascack95 -- you have raised valid and well reasoned points. However, what happens when the 3/4s of your infield recovering from back surgery has setbacks? What if the 80% of your starting rotation recovering from surgery doesn't bounce back? What happens if the nagging injuries that bedeviled to a lesser extent guys like Cespedes, Cabrera and d'Arnaud reoccur?

Hope and faith may give people personal comfort but most businesses plan for contingencies and continuously strive for improvement. They don't assume everything will go right. It seldom does.

bill metsiac said...

Doesn't the 40 have to be set as soon as the contracts are official? If so, waiting for suspensions won't do it.

What would be the reason to suspend Montero, in any case?

bill metsiac said...

Then why should we expect everything will go WRONG? should we base our season on "what-ifs"?

bob gregory said...

Me too

bob gregory said...

The last 8 seasons for the Mets are good reason to expect many injury questions to go wrong, especially when there are so many players entering the season with significant injuries they are returning from.

bill metsiac said...

As of now, we have 7 IFers, 6 OFers, 3 Cs, and 7 SPs. And that doesn't include any MnLers who may be ready for callups as needed.
Yes, there are injury risks, but ZERO reason to expect all of them to materialize.

Mack Ade said...

Bill -

This team will wind up with 6 IFs, 5 OFs, 2 Cs. and... 12 pitchers

Reese Kaplan said...

Last year you lost Lucas Duda and the best they came up with was James Loney???

Well, they had better -- Wilmer Flores -- but the Skipper didn't seem to feel he was worthy of playing.

David Wright went down and the first answer was Eric Campbell. Thankfully the wife beater (well, wife beater number one) fell into their laps at minimum wage. Had that not happened there would have been more Campbell.

You need the good resources, of course, but you also need someone smart enough to use them.

People who think everything will go right remind me of an old episode of the Twilight Zone where one man was ridiculed by his neighbors for building a fallout shelter in the event of disaster but when it was needed they all realized the folly of their ways. You should prepare for the worst. Then if it doesn't happen, you have depth. It's no different in business or in the business of sports.

Jacob Falk said...

Well the problem with your guys arguments is that maintaining the status quo over this past offseason has been, in fact, preparing for the worst. It's no secret that the MVP for the Mets last season was their positional depth, and as many have pointed out, they have pretty much the same roster this year, so even if there are multiple players out at any given time, they at least have a few levels of quality people to run out there.

Mack's Mets © 2012