The New York Mets already had their work cut out for them this offseason as they look to put a disastrous 2017 season behind them. Lots of questions abound regarding what kind of an offense the team will have next season and whether it will be good enough to challenge the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
How the front office will address the outfield took an ominous turn when it was learned that Michael Conforto has opted for shoulder surgery that could have him missing 3-4 months if you want to take the team’s usual rosy outlook, or 6-8 months according to at least two orthopedic surgeons. And by the way, in what’s become a growing trend among Mets players, Conforto elected not to use team doctors.
The uncertainty regarding Michael Conforto now puts a whole new complexity in how the Mets attack the offseason, and the one prevailing question is whether or not the Mets should pull all the stops and bring back right fielder Jay Bruce – who will be one of the top sluggers on the free agent circuit this Winter.
I posed this question to some of my staff on MMO, and here is what they had to say regarding bringing back Jay Bruce.
Rob Piersall – I think it’s imperative the Mets re-sign Jay Bruce. Sandy Alderson traded away all his veteran players, leaving Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith without a real foundation of older players to look up to. Michael Conforto may very well be out until this time next year, and even if he’s back sooner, it’s going to take an extended amount of time to get close to where he was before his injury. Bruce is a bonafide leader that will talk to media day in and day out while remaining calm, cool and collected. Without Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and now Conforto, the Mets are seriously lacking in the big bat department. While Bruce’s Mets career didn’t start on the right foot, fans embraced him when he came into his own. Signing Mike Moustakas isn’t happening, so Bruce should be the Mets top priority this offseason.
Logan Barer – I would only bring him back if it were on a one-year deal. There is no telling when Michael Conforto will be back or even if he will be the same player. Until that comes into focus, signing a veteran outfielder to a multi-year deal would be a mistake. If Conforto comes back in the middle of next season and he hits like he can, the Mets would once again have a crowded outfield and it would last for as long as Bruce’s contract lasted. An outfield of Cespedes Lagares and Bruce sounds great until Conforto comes back and is forced to play center field, where he isn’t good, and a Gold Glover is relegated to the bench. If the Mets are going to sign a veteran outfielder this offseason, bring back Curtis Granderson on a one-year deal, acting as a stop-gap until Conforto returns. If Mike comes back and isn’t the player he was, the 2018-2019 free agent class will have plenty of outfielders to pick from – unless, of course, Tim Tebow is called up by then.
Tommy Rothman – Should the Mets bring back Jay Bruce this offseason? Well, they should at least consider it. The fact that they traded him, for seemingly nothing, didn’t disqualify them from signing him back, Aroldis Chapman-style. That’s one of the reasons why I was fine with the trade, on the condition that it didn’t leave him less inclined to consider signing with the Mets this winter. Based on Bruce’s recent comments, that fear did not become a reality. So if anything, that extra $4 Million in the Mets’ bank account makes bringing Bruce back more possible, no? Bruce is a slugger with 30+ HR power, a dangerous bat that has to be respected when he’s not hitting, and the ability to produce at the plate when he’s not hitting bombs— at least enough to prevent him from being a Chris Carter-type player. He’s also not all that bad in the field, and he certainly has a nice arm. He can clearly “handle” New York. Is he a superstar? No. Is he young? Not really. Is he guaranteed to age well? Nope. I would not give Jay Bruce a huge contract, or even a big one. But if the complete lack of interest in him at the deadline is any indication, the bidding for his services shouldn’t be too outrageous this summer. If he’s willing to sign a reasonable deal that doesn’t hurt our ability to make other moves, then sure, go for it. We don’t really have any “sure things” in the outfield as it is, thanks to the injury concerns.
John Sheridan – The short answer is I don’t know. Prior to Michael Conforto’s injury, the answer would have been a definitive “No!” The Mets desperately need defense in CF, and Bruce would only prevent the team from addressing that need. However, with the uncertainty surrounding the Conforto shoulder injury, including but not limited to whether he can ever be the same player, the Mets may have to address RF. While Granderson might be the better short-term option, a Bruce reunion should not be completely ruled out.
Dilip Sridhar – There are pros and cons to bringing Jay Bruce back. Bruce returning would likely require a three year commitment and essentially forcing Michael Conforto to center field. Conforto is a adequate center fielder but his value is best served in a corner spot. With that said, injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto along with the health concerns of Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo, his return would make a ton of sense. Bruce by all metrics is having his best year since 2011 thanks to his strong offense and surprisingly good defense. Defense can be unpredictable but his offense seems maintainable. With all the concerns surrounding the Mets outfield in terms of injuries, with Dominic Smith not setting himself apart, and with no de facto clubhouse leader, bringing Jay Bruce back makes sense. Perhaps I would feel differently if Conforto stayed healthy but alas, that is not how it works. If the Mets plan on competing in 2018, then they should bring Jay Bruce back in my opinion.