After 40 games played entering Wednesday night’s game, I think we can all agree that Jay Bruce has been a major bust since joining the Mets. His numbers since the trade that brought him over from Cincinnati are cringe-worthy; a stat line of .176/.255/.289 with four home runs, 11 runs batted in, 14 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 142 at-bats. A far cry from the player the Reds had through 97 games, where he hit .265/.316/.559 with a National League leading 80 runs batted in, 25 homers, and a 1.125 OPS with runners in scoring position, earning an All-Star appearance in San Diego this year.
We’ve all read the various reports indicating that New York wasn’t the first place Bruce wanted to be traded to, how he looks like he’s pressing at the plate, can’t handle the New York pressure, and on and on it goes. Bruce’s $13 million option for 2017 was appealing for Sandy Alderson and Co. when evaluating trade options at the deadline, as Yoenis Cespedes will likely opt out of his three-year contract in the off-season, with the hopes of obtaining that big payday which he will most certainly get after back-to-back sensational seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Mets. Bruce was supposed to serve as a cheaper alternative in case Cespedes could not be retained by the Mets, someone who can offer 25-30 homers, and drive in close to 100 runs each year.
But after witnessing Bruce’s struggles and odd loss of power with the Mets, there’s no way he should be picked up for next season. Instead, the Mets should decline the option and pay the $1 million buyout for Bruce. Even Jason Bay, who never replicated the numbers he put up with the Pittsburgh Pirates or Boston Red Sox, put up better numbers with the Mets in his first 40 games: .276/.367/.407 with 16 RBIs. While his power disappeared with the Mets as well (he had 26 total in 288 games between 2010-12), he still produced a higher OBP and SLG in both his first 40 games with the Mets, and in his Met career overall (.318 OBP, .369 SLG).
Making matters worse was the outfield gaffe in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves, where in the 6th inning a shallow popup fell in between center fielder Curtis Granderson and Bruce, with both intimating after the game that it was a lapse in communication. This was the turning point of the game, one in which the Mets were leading by a slim 1-0 margin, only to see them give up five runs in the sixth and seventh innings. It was like watching someone slowly letting the helium out of a balloon, with the balloon slowly wilting before our very eyes.
And while many will say it’s the center fielder’s job to make any play they can, clearly Bruce was in better position to make the catch and throw home, as the bases were loaded with only one out in the inning. Bruce has the stronger arm of the two, even more of a reason why he should’ve made the call and the catch to begin with, instead of being passive and having that deer in the headlights look afterwards.
After Terry Collins elected to pinch-hit Eric Campbell for Bruce in he 8th inning with a runner on second and two outs, going with a guy that hadn’t had a major league at-bat since May 30 against the Chicago White Sox, that was enough for me to see that Collins has lost faith in the 29-year-old slugging outfielder. Bruce handled himself well postgame, something he should be commended for. He spoke by his locker on how it was the manager’s right to remove him from the game, and he didn’t need or expect an explanation from Collins. He said he always thinks he’s the best option at the plate, but clearly he hasn’t been that better option for some time now. Bruce realizes that he’s as much beloved in New York as the aforementioned Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo combined.
Which brings me to this question: Does Jay Bruce have a guaranteed roster spot for the Mets postseason?
With 25 precious roster spots for the postseason, would it be in the Mets’ best interest to include the struggling left-handed hitter into the mix, in the biggest stage of the season? Can Jay Bruce play himself into the postseason conversation with a strong final week and a half of play?
All legitimate questions to pose, especially when narrowing down the roster spots and planning ahead for various match ups, situations, etc. As management and the front office begin to crunch numbers and analyze who should be the best 25 group of men to take the field, I made my own postseason roster, to narrow down who the best roster would be comprised of.
In my mock postseason roster, I’m carrying both Lugo and Gsellman in case Matz hasn’t had the necessary time to work up his pitch count, and or if the Mets elect to use a four man rotation, and one of Gsellman or Lugo ends up being the long man out of the pen. I’m also carrying Loney and Duda on the roster, since Duda has not had much playing time and no minor league games to rehab in, but can offer a late inning power bat off the bench in the worst case scenario.
I’m carrying Lagares as my late-inning defensive replacement, something he did a lot in the lead-up to the postseason last year. Lagares can also pinch-run, however, his thumb isn’t strong enough for him to take consistent at-bats with, but I’d still like to have him on the roster to ensure the best possible defensive alignment for the later innings.
And as of now, Flores hasn’t been able to make his way back from the left wrist he injured during the Sept. 10 game against the Braves, and might not return in time for the postseason. Collins appeared worried on Wednesday, indicating that his level of concern is at “DEFCON FOUR”. Flores still has some time to work back from the injury, so with that in mind, I’m keeping him on my playoff roster. In the case Flores in unable to play, the Mets could decide to go with Matt Reynolds who can backup Cabrera at short, or go with Ty Kelly for his switch-hitting abilities or Eric Campbell who can man the corners and offer a strong .798 OPS as a pinch-hitter for his career.
And I’m also carrying Conforto on the playoff roster, who had a tough Divisional and League Championship series in 2015, but put together a tremendous World Series going 5-for-15 (.333.) with two homers, and four runs batted in. Conforto is also part of the Mets’ future plans, and offers a better option than Bruce does currently. When comparing the two, Conforto in 2016 has a wRC+ of 91, wOBA of .304, and an OPS of .706. In Bruce’s Met tenure, he’s posted a wRC+ of 45, a .235 wOBA, and an OPS of .544. I also believe that giving Conforto the roster spot over Bruce would show good faith in the 23-year-old, and might go a long way in boosting his confidence for the postseason and moving forward for his career.
Bruce is a half season rental at this point, and should be viewed as such. The thoughts of picking up his option for ’17 should be immediately erased, and instead, all the resources the Wilpon’s have should be going to their efforts in re-signing Cespedes. Remember when the Mets went 5-9 in Cespedes’ absence from August 4-18? Since his return on August 19, the Mets have gone 20-10, and he’s provided clutch hits, big moments, and also put together his first back-to-back 30 plus homer seasons of his career. Needless to say, Cespedes is the outfielder the Mets need to make priority number one.
Obviously the Mets still have work to do in the regular season before worrying about postseason rosters. Before Wednesday night’s game with the Braves, the Mets sit in a three-way tie with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants for the top Wild Card. Of the three teams, the Mets have the easier schedule to close the regular season, however, as the Braves’ series has shown, you can never take the schedule for granted, and the Mets need to approach each game as a must win from here on out.
If Bruce wants a shot at a postseason roster spot, he needs to start putting together better at-bats, and producing at a closer level in which the Mets brass thought they were acquiring. Time is ticking and running out on that goal, which is why, in my opinion, Bruce does not belong on the postseason roster. What do you think?