Jay Bruce has been linked to Toronto several times over the last couple of years, however, would Carlos González make more sense?
Among other things, the Blue Jays could use an upgrade in the outfield to take over for the departed Jose Bautista. They may choose to roll with internal options, but there are several players on the market who might work well on a short term deal. Two of those players are left-handed power hitters in Carlos Gonzalez, and Jay Bruce. If the choice came down to those two, how do they stack up for the Blue Jays?
Both are left handed hitters known for power and middle of the lineup bats. Jay Bruce had a great year with the Mets and after being traded to Cleveland. He had a slash line of .254/.324/.508 along 36 homers and 101 runs driven in. On the other hand, Carlos González had a down year, posting a respectable slash line of .262/.338/.423, however his pop was significantly down compared to his career norms as he managed to hit just 14 homers, which is a fine number, but far from his career power numbers which round the 25-homer mark, reaching 40 in 2015.
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Career wise, Gonzalez is a better offensive contributor with a lifetime OPS+ of 116 compared to Bruce’s of 110. Also, the Venezuelan outfielder has a much higher career OBP (.346) than the Texas native Bruce (.319). Overall Bruce likely guarantees more home runs, as he’s hit 95 over the last three seasons, while González has hit 79.
Something to consider however, are the second half numbers by Carlos González. It can be said he returned to his career form as he hit .314/.390/.531 with an OPS of .921. Excellent numbers even though his power was still down with just eight homers in the second half. Something against the González case is of course the fact he has played in Coors Field as his home park throughout his career, which might affect his numbers to some extent. In 2017 they definitely did, as his slash line away from Coors Field was quite ugly. .203/.274/.332 with a poor .606 OPS. In 2016, his OPS away from home was also below the .800 mark, which indicates that Coors Field has helped him. However, Rogers Center is also a hitters park and even though it isn’t Coors Field, it should still help him, as well as the other AL East stadiums.
Neither González or Bruce have good speed, which both being pretty average, or below-average runners. They ranked 20th and 21st in the Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard among right fielders in 2017.
Neither player is an elite defender by any means. Carlos González’s gold gloves were back in 2013, 2012 and 2010 and his defense has not been as elite since then. He has a career 4 DRS/1200 in right field, while Jay Bruce has a career 2 DRS/1200. Not a very significant difference between the two. Arm wise, Bruce had five outfield assists while González had three in 2017. Adding on to that, according to Statcast, González’s defense in 2017 was arguably better than Bruce’s. Cargo made 9.7 % of 5-star catches (Bruce made 0%). Overall, they are very similar defensive players.
This is the factor which is most convincing and important when comparing both players. Carlos González will likely look for a one-year deal due to his 2017 down year. MLB Trade Rumors predicts he signs a $12MM one-year deal. It wouldn’t be surprising if it is less however, rounding the $10MM mark. On the other hand, Bruce, was reportedly looking for a five-year deal, although it is extremely unlikely he ends up getting such contract. MLB Trade Rumors predicts he signs a three-year $39MM deal.
Rounding it up
Jay Bruce should provide more home runs than Carlos González without a doubt. However, his low OBP is not very pleasant for a Blue Jays team that ranked 13th in the American League in OBP. Also, the three-year contract he will most probably get isn’t very ideal for the Blue Jays considering the outfield depth they have in the minor league system in the form of Teoscar Hernandez and Anthony Alford. The Blue Jays do not need a long-term addition for the outfield. That is why, a player like Carlos González, who is a very similar player to Jay Bruce, who just had a worse 2017 season, makes a lot of sense for Toronto if they are indeed looking to add a lefty outfield corner bat with power. He could very well end up being a bargain if he is able to come back to his 2016 form, or even his 2017 2nd half form.