An MMO Fan Shot by Viraj Sethi (Doubl)
Last season, on deadline day, the Mets acquired Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Jay Bruce would go on to carry the Mets to the Wild Card game. Okay, I’m kidding. Bruce sucked last year with the Mets; he had a .685 OPS which was significantly below the league average. After that unspeakably painful loss to the San Francisco Giants (Screw you Gillaspie), the Mets went into the offseason in a pickle. Yoenis Cespedes’ contractual status into 2017 was unclear, so the Front Office went ahead and picked up Bruce’s $13 Million option. As we all know, Cespedes re-signed with the Mets, and then Bruce’s contract became a real issue. We had five legitimate outfielders in Cespedes, Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto, so it became an imperative to trade Jay Bruce.
Over the offseason, Bruce and Granderson’s names both came up in minor trade rumors. It seemed like the Mets were far more intent on keeping the Grandy-Man over Jay Bruce. The offseason passed, and the power-hitter’s market slowly dwindled. Trumbo, Encarnacion, and others all signed contracts for far less than expected. It seemed like power was not something general managers were willing to pay for. The supply of power hitters was very high; thus bringing down the cost. Next thing we knew, Spring Training had arrived, and the former Red was still a New York Met.
So here we are in August, and Jay Bruce is having one of the best seasons of his career. His .841 OPS is tied for the second best mark of his career and his best since his .846 OPS in 2010. This is backed with a 120 wRC+ which also second to his 2010 season. However, over his career, Bruce has become more of a one-trick-pony. In 2010, he had a .353 OBP and .493 SLG. This year his OBP is at .321 and his SLG is sitting at .520, the highest mark of his career. This is also backed by a career-high .264 ISO. Now, why am I telling you this?
I am stressing Bruce’s high power and relatively low on-base skills because this is a common trend among baseball. In 2016 and 2017, four of the top-six home run months of ALL TIME have occurred. Everyone his hitting home runs for a variety of reasons including stressing launch angle and the potential of juiced baseballs (which seems more and more likely). Jay’s 29 HR through August 10th ranks 10th in the MLB. To put this in perspective, 29 HR would have ranked tied for 15th and 12th in the league in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Oh and guess what… There are STILL two months left in the season! Everyone is hitting bombs in 2017, and basic economics explains Bruce’s value.
Let’s say that demand for power has stayed the same the last 5 years or so. Now supply of home run-hitters has increased dramatically since 2015. When supply goes up and demand stays the same, price will go down. Bruce does not provide much of anything else than power. He rates as both an average fielder and baserunner. This explains why Bruce’s value in trades has been minimal since the offseason. This does not only apply to Jay Bruce. Mark Trumbo has similar numbers to Bruce last year with 47 HR and a .316/.533/.849 triple slash. He got a whopping three years and $37.5M in the offseason. Granted his defense is worse than Bruce’s, he still got much less than $50M at the same age (This will apply to a later argument).
Another example is Chris Carter, who was non-tendered by the Brewers after hitting 41 HR last year. He received a $3M deal from the Yankees. Finally, I will use J.D. Martinez as an example. Martinez has a .998 OPS and a 151 wRC+ while providing both power and on-base skills. Granted his defense is pretty awful, but he is an elite player at the plate. He was traded to the Diamondbacks for their No. 4, No. 15 and a young flyer-type prospect. Now, that return is not awful, but looking closer that No. 4 prospect, Dawel Lugo, actually projects as a utility player. For a top-15 hitter in baseball (based on wRC+), that return is pretty embarrassing, considering what other teams have given up in the past for rental outfielders. We can look at the Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Beltran deals to show that teams in the past gave up far greater value for big-bats.
Now, finally (I know I’ve been ranting guys), we get to the Bruce deal. I think we all know that this deal came from the top. Ownership told Sandy that the team was not going anywhere this year, so they wanted to save money at all costs. So Sandy traded Bruce and the $3.7M left on his contract to the Indians for RHP Ryder Ryan who actually is not as bad as he seems. He has potential as a young reliever throwing in the high-nineties, but this was a very disappointing return. A normal fan or even a hardcore fan looks at Bruce’s numbers and Ryan, and it just does not match up… This shows what I proved earlier that power hitters around baseball do not have much value.
Now the other common complaint to this deal comes from the Qualifying Offer and potentially signing Jay Bruce in the offseason. The Mets could have definitely floated Bruce a QO, but it came with major risk. The qualifying offer is projected to be more than $18 million this offseason, and after watching Neil Walker accept his QO last year, the Mets may not be too keen on having another player accept.
You have to consider that a player very similar to Bruce, Mark Trumbo, is getting about $12.5M per year. So from that standpoint, handing out a qualifying offer may be risky. Also, the return is questionable. I mentioned before that Bruce probably is not going to get more than $50M. I foresee a deal maxing out at 3 years and $45M. My projection is giving Bruce $2.5 M more per year than Trumbo for his defense and leadership skills. I do not see him getting much more because Trumbo actually had slightly better numbers than Jay last year.
The new qualifying offer system gives NO draft-pick compensation if a player does not sign for more than $50M. This quote from Ken Rosenthal’s twitter backs my point”
“Team that loses QO free agent will get a pick only if the player signs a contract of $50M+. The pick it gets will depend upon that team’s market size.”
So by potentially giving Bruce a qualifying offer, the Mets risk Bruce signing for $18M with there being no potential reward.
Some have made the argument that Bruce will now be impossible to sign in the offseason since we have traded him. I do not believe this is the case. This is purely my opinion, but Bruce has seemed to be a very mature player. His comments preceding the trade and those afterwards make it clear that he knows baseball is a business.
If the Mets are willing to give him enough money, I believe he will be happy to re-sign with the team in the offseason. One must also consider than Sandy’s regime has a strong recent history of getting the player they want in Free Agency using Cespedes as an example.
Overall, I would rate this trade as a C-. It does very little to help the play on the field in the future and is an obvious salary dump. It may give everyone a bad taste in their mouths regarding ownership, but in the grand scheme of things, it is pretty meaningless.
Note: Stats came from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference.
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This Fan Shot was contributed by Viraj Sethi (Doubl). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 20,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.