The Toronto Blue Jays nearly traded for Jay Bruce prior to the 2016 season before the deal fell through at the last minute
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly discussing a deal for outfielder Jay Bruce.
Bruce almost landed on the Blue Jays in a deal earlier this season that would have shipped Michael Saunders to the Los Angeles Angels, but the trade fell apart at the last minute due to issues with a medical report of one player involved.
Toronto’s fascination with Bruce has been well-documented and stretches back through the Alex Anthopoulos regime. Given Toronto’s need in the corner outfields, it is not surprising that they’ve reportedly chosen to circle back.
The slugging left-hander split his 2016 season between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets, batting .250 with 33 home runs and 99 RBI. Bruce has now hit 20+ home runs in eight of his nine professionals seasons and topped the 30 home run mark four times.
With Bruce, the drawback has always been his defence as he continues to be one of the league’s more limited fielders in right. Granted, Jose Bautista’s defence also declined significantly towards the end of his Blue Jays tenure. This factor has limited Bruce to a 1.0 cumulative WAR in 2015 and 2016 despite hitting 59 home runs with a .770 OPS.
Platooning Bruce with Upton does have an appeal offensively, as Bruce mashed right-handed pitching to the tune of an .872 OPS in 2016. He struggles with strikeouts against lefties, so keeping him in a strict platoon would help to increase his value significantly (though his salary of $13 million is heavy for that role).
Upton, on the other hand, managed left-handed pitching very well over a small sample size in 2016 with an .874 OPS. Over his career Upton Jr. is still stronger against left-handers, but to a more modest extent (.760 OPS vs. LHP, .708 OPS vs. RHP).