The Cincinnati Reds were a very interesting team this year. Finishing with their worst record since 2008, the team failed to make the playoffs after reaching the dance in three of the last four seasons. Looking to rebound from a down year, you have to wonder if the Reds would consider shaking things up. It could start with Jay Bruce.
Heading into 2015, there really isn’t much that will change regarding the Reds offense. Joey Votto is signed for another decade and Brandon Phillips and most of the youngsters won’t be free agents for a few more seasons. The pitching staff is a different story. Mat Latos and Mike Leake will become free agents after next season. It might be time to retool the rotation.
Bruce is signed through the next two seasons with salaries of $12 million in 2015 and $12.5 million in 2016. million. There’s also a club option for 2017. With the emergence of Billy Hamilton this year and with top prospects Jesse Winker and Phil Ervin waiting in the wings, the Reds might look to move the All-Star outfielder to improve their long-term outlook.
Trading away one of the teams top hitters might not make all that much sense. After all, the Reds ranked very low as far as National League hitting stats went in 2014. They were 14th in hits, 13th in runs and 14th in OPS. The one area that didn’t slip on the Reds was in the power department. They still managed to rank 8th in the NL in home runs despite Votto playing just 62 games. The emergence of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco fueled their power numbers while Bruce finished third on the team with 18 home runs.
Bruce had a disappointing season. He hit just .217/.281/.373/.654 which is way below his career norms. Tracking just his OPS shows the decline in his game. After four straight seasons of an .800+ OPS, this year that number fell into the mid-sixties. You’d imagine this was an aberration for Bruce.
The main reason the Reds could look to move Bruce is because of their upcoming financial situation. After the 2015 season, they will be losing team control over a number of key players. Johnny Cueto, Ryan Ludwick and reliever Sean Marshall could all walk after next season. That means the time is now for the Reds to regroup. Trading Bruce to the Mets could enable the Reds to add a top pitching prospect in addition to a few major league ready pieces. They could even shore up their bullpen which featured the 5th worst ERA in baseball despite throwing the fewest innings.
Now you have to ponder, what would it take for the Mets to actually pry Bruce away from the Reds? You’d imagine they’d want a major league ready pitcher under team control like Jon Niese. They’d also probably want a high-upside starter like Rafael Montero or even Noah Syndergaard. They might even want a big piece for the bullpen like a Jenrry Mejia or Vic Black. I’m not sure the Mets would part with Syndergaard in a trade for Bruce but maybe, just maybe, Montero, Niese and one more player would be enough to get it done.