New York Mets: Jay Bruce’s Complicated Road To Queens

Before going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his debut with the New York Mets, outfielder Jay Bruce addressed the media for the first time, flashing a smile and expressing his excitement at joining a pennant race.

“There’s an instant kind of recharge to the battery, getting in there to a pennant race and playing baseball that matters,” the three-time All-Star outfielder said Tuesday. “The last couple years have been tough.”

Bruce, 29, has enjoyed three postseason runs with his now-former Cincinnati Reds ballclub (2010, 2012, 2013). However, after several seasons of poor performance, the Reds elected to part with Bruce, who had been with the team since the 2008 season.

Donning No. 19, in honor of his former teammate Joey Votto’s plate discipline, Bruce received some boos and “Bruuuuuce!” chants throughout the game. The current National League leader in runs batted in with 80 is expected to contribute some offensive firepower to a dreadful Mets offense. Also, with slugger Yoenis Cespedes possibly opting out of his deal this offseason and leaving in free agency, Bruce provides some insurance for 2017 as his contract includes a team option.

Over the years, however, Bruce came close to manning right field for the Mets on several different occasions.

Prior to acquiring Cespedes at last year’s trade deadline, the Mets and Reds were engaged in serious talks about a trade that would send Bruce to New York. Multiple reports said that Mets’ oft-injured right-hander Zack Wheeler would be the main piece heading to Cincinnati. However, at the deadline last year, talks stalled as the Reds increased their demands — and had concerns about Wheeler’s elbow — which culminated with Bruce remaining in Cincinnati.

Bruce came close to being a part of the Mets organization a decade earlier in the 2005 MLB Draft. The Mets had the ninth overall pick — which they used to select pitcher Mike Pelfrey — but were also interested in Bruce. Per Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, if Pelfrey had been taken by another team before the Mets, Bruce was their second choice.

Pelfrey made his major league debut the following season. He elected free agency after the 2012 campaign; enduring several up and down seasons over his seven-year stint with New York. While Pelfrey’s 2010 season in which he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA stands out, he never developed into the frontline starter the Mets envisioned.

“You know what? He was the guy we wanted,” Russ Bove, the man who ran the Mets’ 2005 draft told Rubin about Pelfrey. “I really, really liked him. But if we didn’t get Pelfrey, we were going to take Jay Bruce. We did have a deal cut with Bruce’s agent, if Pelfrey wasn’t there. We would have got Bruce signed right away.”

Over his eight-and-a-half year run in Cincy, Bruce achieved a lot. In addition to three All-Star selections, he’s a two-time Silver Slugger, hit at least 30 homers every season from 2011-2013, and was nominated for a Gold Glove on multiple occasions.

Any team could use Bruce’s caliber of run production, which garnered interest last offseason. The Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, and Reds reportedly had a deal in place to send Bruce to Toronto last February.

However, an issue with the medical on a prospect headed to the Reds caused the deal to fall apart. Fast forward eight months, the Mets reportedly agreed to send Brandon Nimmo — their No. 6 ranked prospect by MLB.com — and minor league pitchers Max Wotell and Chris Flexen to Cincinnati for Bruce. Once again, the Reds found an issue with a medical of a player heading their way, believed to be Flexen, and the deal stalled.

Both sides, however, managed to restructure the deal, as the Mets agreed to trade top infield prospect Dilson Herrera and Wotell for Bruce. Thus, came an end to Bruce’s complicated journey out of Cincinnati and to New York.

“I feel like I’ve been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now,” Bruce said with a laugh.

[Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images]