Blue Jays Rumors: Jay Bruce now on Toronto’s radar
The Boston Red Sox made the big splash in the headlines today when they came to contract agreements with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but that doesn’t mean the Toronto Blue Jays are going to sit idly by either. Alex Anthopoulos and company just move on to the next target, which according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, appears to be Jay Bruce.
We heard earlier this week that the Cincinnati Reds were considering putting Jay Bruce out there on the trade market, and that seems to be enough to entice the Blue Jays who just so happen are in need of adding an outfielder. The 27-year-old Bruce becomes an intriguing option for Toronto, but the team will certainly want to do its homework first.
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Bruce has long been considered a top talent just waiting to break out, but consistency has been his downfall so far in his young career. There is no denying the power he brings to the table, as he’s a perennial home run threat and is a capable run produced. A two-time All-Star in Cincinnati, Bruce owned a .257/.330/.482 slash line through his first 6 seasons with a 162-game average of 32 home runs and 81 RBI. During that span, he averaged a 119 wRC+ and was worth 16.4 wins above replacement.
However, the wheels fell of of Bruce during a tough 2014 campaign. In 137 games, Bruce mustered only 18 home runs and 66 RBI while slashing .217/.281/.373 with a wRC+ of just 79. Needless to say, he didn’t cut it on the field and WAR, which had always been friendly to Bruce, saw him at less than replacement value at -1.1 last season.
Strikeouts and consistency have held Bruce back from being the consistent offensive threat that his teammate Joey Votto evolved into. During his seven year career, Bruce carries a 24.5% K-rate. That mark is trending in the wrong direction as well, rising in each of the past four seasons to a career high rate of 27.3% in 2014.
That all said, Bruce’s down season is considered as an abberation of sorts, a result of knee surgery he had in May and then hurried back from. One down season is tough to completely judge a player on, but it also difficult to hand over a sizable return to a team and take on Bruce’s two years and $24.5 million remaining ($13m option in 2017) on a hunch that a rebound is in order. However, considering the other prices on the market, Bruce could turn into quite the value for the right cost.
Nick Markakis is said to be looking at a deal that would pay him $12 million per season for the next four years. Despite being a much better defensive outfielder than Bruce, the latter has been more valuable at the plate over the course of his career. Adding in the power component and Bruce actually becomes the smarter play. The same could be said when comparing Bruce to Melky Cabrera, who is quickly pricing his way out of a return to Toronto.
The true cost of Jay Bruce would come in the return package needed to land him. The Reds are looking to reduce payroll, but also want to maintain some semblance of contention. That may be tough to do though, and the team will be looking for cost controlled assets to fill the holes they create, and another one they already have in the outfield. The Blue Jays have a vast amount of young pitching in which to deal from, but do not want to part with their big three prospects in Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, and Aaron Sanchez. That may mean arms like Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin highlight a package, but it is doubtful that they are enough to get a deal done. Additionally, the Blue Jays lack an impact position player in the upper minors that they could package with an arm.
So while Toronto may be showing some interest here, as they are with just about any player with a pulse this winter, the decision here is a tough one and not necessarily one that they could qualify to make. Power is at a premium this winter, but it just doesn’t seem right for the Blue Jays to bit at this particular fish.