Finding a use for Bruce

With Mark Trumbo re-signing with the Orioles, Jose Bautista re-signing with the Blue Jays, and Michael Saunders signing with the Phillies, the Mets have just about run out of trade options for Jay Bruce.  The remaining teams connected to the Mets concerning a trade for Bruce are the Rangers and the Giants, with the latter only willing to discuss a trade if the Mets take on a significant portion of the $13 million owed to Bruce.  At this point, it looks like the Mets may be stuck with Jay Bruce.

At this point, the Mets should be prepared to find a use for Jay Bruce on the team.  With an overabundance of outfielders,  either Bruce or Michael Conforto will be the odd man out.  Considering the team’s desire to have Conforto play just about every day, it seems likely that either one of the two or both of them could be taking reps and seeing time at first base during spring training.  With Lucas Duda coming off back surgery, his status as the starting first baseman may be called into question.  Bruce or Conforto could split time at first base with Duda against right-handed pitchers, with the player sitting that day providing a threat off the bench later in the game.  Due to Conforto’s young age and the fact that the team wants him to focus on improving his hitting, a position change for him at this moment doesn’t seem likely.  This means that the veteran Bruce is the best candidate to be moved from the outfield to first base.

The Mets hanging onto Bruce by the start of the season can allow Bruce to try to recover from his terrible 2016 as a member of the Mets.  If Bruce can return to the slugger he was with the Reds, the Mets can trade him at the deadline for valuable pieces that they may need, or just keep him, adding depth behind Cespedes and Walker in the middle of the batting order.  It’s worth noting that, despite struggling during his time in New York, Bruce looked much better at the plate over the last two weeks of the regular season.

It doesn’t seem likely that Bruce gets traded before the start of spring training.  The Mets are unwilling to take on any of Bruce’s salary if they are to trade him, which may eliminate the Giants as a possible trade candidate.  If the Rangers valued Bruce in the same way that the Mets value reliever Jeremy Jeffress, it’s likely that a deal would have been done by now.  It’s safe to assume that the Rangers don’t see Bruce as a serious target for them to land.

At this point, the only off-season moves that the Mets should be focused on making before the start of spring training is to add some arms to the bullpen.  I feel that Jerry Blevins should be the main target for the Mets at this point.  If the Mets are willing to give him a 2 year deal, Blevins would probably accept it at this point.  Other relievers that I feel the Mets should consider signing are Fernando Salas, who pitched very well for the Mets last season after being acquired in a trade with the Angels, and Sergio Romo.  Both pitchers wouldn’t be that expensive and have the potential to be good 7th or 8th inning setup men.  Salas did a fine job as the 7th inning man for the Mets late last season, posting an ERA of 2.08 in 17.1 innings.  Romo was one of the few reliable relievers for the Giants last season, posting an ERA of 2.64.  The Mets should try to sign one of the two pitchers in addition to Blevins in order to solidify their bullpen.

At this point, the Mets need to hope that Bruce returns to form, assuming he is a member of the Mets by the start of the season.  If he plays well, the Mets have more depth in their lineup.  If he continues to struggle, they may have to trade him for just some mid-tier major-leaguers or prospects.  All eyes will be on Jay Bruce during spring training, assuming he is still a member of the New York Mets.

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