Did you give a former Cincinnati Reds player a three-year deal this past offseason? If you did, you are probably the Mets and Angels. The Mets gave Jay Bruce $39 million dollars this past offseason while the Angels gave Zack Cozart $38 million dollars. How has that worked out? Cozart is slashing .219/.296/.362 while Bruce is slashing .212/.292/.321.
My suggestion for both teams: swap these guys.
Why it makes sense for the Angels: Bruce is more likely to rebound offensively than Cozart is. Cozart has a career wRC+ of 90 and his wRC+ this year is 85. Bruce’s career wRC+ is 107 while this year, it is 70. It seems like a plausible bet that Bruce will be the better hitter after this season especially given Cozart’s shoulder surgery. He tore his left labrum which is his front shoulder when swinging. So on the Angels side, they would be getting a player who is more likely to be a better hitter than what they are currently situated with. They would also have a clear shot to acquire Mike Moustakas, a Californian who wants to be an Angel and has no qualifying offer.
Bruce also gives them a 1B-RF-DH. Currently, they have some combination of Albert Pujols, Luis Valbuena, Kole Calhoun, and Chris Young at those positions. Pujols is hitting .249/.287/.406, Valbuena is hitting .211/.254/.355, Calhoun is hitting .168/.221/.248, and Young is hitting .168/.252/.363. Finally, some players are being mentored by Jose Reyes. In all seriousness, a semi-healthy Jay Bruce is a clear upgrade over all these guys.
Why it makes makes sense for the Mets: The simple answer is that Jay Bruce no longer has a place on the Mets roster. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo occupy two out of the three outfield spots. They probably can’t move Yoenis Cespedes so he will be penciled in the outfield over Bruce. While I do expect Cespedes to play in more than 80 games in 2019, it doesn’t make financial sense to pay a fourth outfielder $28 million.
Meanwhile, they do not have a second baseman for 2019. Cozart could come in and play second while filling short and third but I doubt he can handle it full time. By being a backup shortstop, we can finally stop using the excuse that the Mets need Reyes around as a backup SS.
There are concerns about his labrum tear, especially since it is his front shoulder but he has never been a great hitter aside from 2017. He is a career .251/.307/.407 hitter with a .308 wOBA but he does accumulate a lot of value with his glove. Essentially, my point is he has been a serviceable player in the past largely due to his glove, not his bat. So while his shoulder injury might hinder his offense, it was never the forte of his game.
Potential Roadblocks: The first is money. Bruce is owed $28 million while Cozart is owed $25.33 million. It’s a $2.67 million difference so the teams should in theory be able to resolve the issue but never doubt the power of money to some.
The second is the fact that the Angels don’t need to move Cozart. They can always plug him in at second while still signing Mike Moustakas and someone like Matt Adams for a couple million. In my proposal, they would re-sign Ian Kinsler (or someone like him) for $2-$3 million to play second. Kinsler can still play a really good second base despite his poor offense. In theory, the Mets don’t need to move Bruce either but it makes far more logistical sense for them to move him than it does for the Angels to move Cozart.
The solution to this would be either sending more money to the Angels to essentially cover the costs for Ian Kinsler or the Mets could send a prospect to the Angels. It wouldn’t be Andres Gimenez but maybe the Angels could sneak someone in the lower levels who their scouts like.