Toronto’s interest in Jay Bruce has become the ultimate long game — something the Blue Jays could still benefit from
The New York Mets have an outfielder by the name of Jay Bruce. Have you heard of him?
Bruce has been linked to the Blue Jays time and again over the past 18 months, most notably in a deal last February including Michael Saunders that fell apart in the final stages. This interest has continued throughout the 2016 off-season, but as Mike Pumpa reports, the Rangers and Blue Jays are still showing “minimal interest”.
Thursday saw Dexter Fowler reportedly agree to sign in St. Louis, and with Ian Desmond off the board to Colorado, Bruce is now part of the B-level options available to outfield-needy teams alongside Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, Melky Cabrera, and others. Is Bruce the most appealing of the bunch? Likely not.
As always, though, things change when dollars are considered.
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New York is currently looking at a 2017 payroll around $150 million, and according to a Wednesday report from Anthony DiComo, the team would prefer to get that number closer to $140 million.
Moving Bruce’s salary from the equation would quickly address this, especially with Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson preferring to create the available budget prior to shopping for bullpen pieces so that the Mets are not limited by “buying a new house without selling your old one.”
New York’s leverage in Jay Bruce talks has never been high. After picking up his $13 million team option for 2017 — a move that looks less natural in post-Cespedes hindsight — Bruce has been the likeliest trade chip ahead of Curtis Granderson. In a roundabout way, Toronto’s failed attempts at acquiring Bruce have brought them to their most opportune moment with him.
Financial relief seems to outweigh prospect return here, so the Mets won’t be eating Bruce’s salary to the extent that San Diego did with Melvin Upton Jr., but a lesser version of that situation could easily come to be. With Upton, Jason Grilli, and later Francisco Liriano, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have shown a willingness and a true skill when it comes to this variety of transaction.
With names and players removed this strategy is, essentially, using budget as a trade asset. Toronto’s is not unlimited by any means, but other cash-strapped teams present opportunities to acquire players for 80% or 60% of their financial hit while losing just minor pieces in the process.
With suitors dwindling and New York needing to hit the bullpen market sooner than later, the “need” lies in their corner far more than Toronto’s.
The Blue Jays can easily move on without a defensively-limited corner outfielder that might benefit from a platoon partner. Jay Bruce is not a seamless fit by any means, even on a one-year deal, but when viewed through the scope of a $6 million or $8.5 million salary instead of his current one, the edges seem a little less sharp.