Jay Bruce – 29 years old
New York Mets (Formerly almost Toronto Blue Jays)
Jay Bruce is not scheduled to be a free agent, but that hasn’t stopped the Blue Jays in the past.
The slugging outfielder has a $13 million team option with the New York Mets — $1 million buyout — that could be an easy pick-up even if the Mets do not intend on keeping Bruce.
“If they don’t want him, they could always trade him,” a National League executive told Jon Heyman last week. This could be made even more possible if the man just discussed, Yoenis Cespedes, stays with the Mets.
Like Cespedes, Bruce is being included on this list because I expect him to be discussed in relation to the Blue Jays, not because there’s a particularly high likelihood of a move being made. Here’s why:
Even with Toronto’s history of Jay Bruce rumours and their deal prior to this season that was all but official, Bruce fit the 2016 Blue Jays much better than he does the 2017 picture. This past season the Blue Jays accepted and owned the identity of a slow-moving heavyweight that usually delivered the knockout punch. Bruce fit that all-or-nothing model in a way, but as the Blue Jays look to add some team speed and improve their defence in the corner outfields, his fit becomes less natural.
When a player hits 33 home runs with 99 RBI and still only escapes the season with a 0.9 WAR (just 0.2 above Ezequiel Carrera), it’s a sure sign that there is no glove to be found. Bruce had the worst defensive season of his career, and at some point, a shift to first base or full-time designated hitter has to enter the conversation.
Of course, Bruce’s value isn’t entirely empty. Finding a left-handed bat who is an annual threat to “click” and find 30 home runs with 100 RBI is not easy, and if the Mets really do choose to look elsewhere with Bruce, there will be a team happy to take him.
As long as he’s being used as an outfielder, though, his lone impact will come via the home run ball. Even as a first baseman or designate hitter, Bruce’s speed and high strikeout rate make him a poor fit for the 2017 Blue Jays.
*Editor’s note: Mark Trumbo was knowingly excluded from the discussion because, like Bruce, his defence is too great a liability. Unlike Bruce, he has already seen extensive time as a first-baseman or designated hitter, which is where I would classify him in regards to the Blue Jays.