Blue Jays: Jay Bruce on the radar but is he the answer?
Jay Bruce has been on the Toronto Blue Jays radar since an offseason three-team trade fell through during the 2016 offseason and although he smashed 36 homers last season, is he the type of player the Blue Jays need to get over the hump?
In the winter of 2016, a three-deal that would have seen the Blue Jays acquire outfielder Jay Bruce from the Red subsequently fell through because the Jays minor leaguer involved failed the physical. The logistics of the deal would have seen Michael Saunders shipped to the Los Angeles Angels while the Reds would have benefitted receiving prospects in the package.
The deal was all for not and both Saunders and Bruce ended up being All-Stars for their respective teams that season. Bruce ended up in Cleveland after the non-waiver trade deadline in August for minor leaguer Ryder Ryan and now there are rumblings the Blue Jays were sniffing around when that deal was consummated.
Now Bruce is a free agent and one would have to speculate that the Jays will once again come knocking even though the Jays were one of eight teams on Bruce’s no-trade clause. MLB Trade Rumors even predicted that Bruce would end up with the Jays this offseason in their 50 MLB Free Agent Predictions.
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Bruce will turn 31 in April and even though he connected for a career-high 36 round trippers in 2017, he fits that one-dimensional power-hitter mold the Blue Jays are trying to steer away from. Bruce does not exactly make the Jays younger or more athletic and he did whiff 139 times last season playing right into that all or nothing approach.
He is an average defender compiling 5 Defensive Runs Saved a stark improvement from his -11 in 2016. Bruce also accumulated a 1.8 Ultimate Zone Rating last season but was saddled with a negative UZR the previous three seasons.
The outfielder earned $13 million last season but should be in line for a somewhat significant raise after reaching career highs in homers. If the Jays are going to stall the likes of Anthony Alford or Teoscar Hernandez from starting the season with the big club, you would hope it’s for a better all-around alternative than Jay Bruce.
The Jays are not necessarily lacking power, it’s the intangibles like speed, defence, advancing runners and having the ability to play small ball. Unfortunately, Bruce lacks in those departments and falls into the old Jays adage of power and power only.
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It’s time the brain trust provide Manager John Gibbons with an assortment of weapons for his disposal other than power and unfortunately, Bruce is not that guy.