The Blue Jays have revisited a target from last offseason as the team has discussed a deal for outfielder Jay Bruce, ESPN’s Jim Bowden told MLB Network Radio on Sunday.
Sluggers Jose Bautista, 36, and Edwin Encarnacion, 33, are on the free agent market and expected to sign elsewhere. Therefore, Toronto may have to replace two players who accounted for 64 home runs (HRs) and 196 runs batted in (RBIs) last season.
After signing Kendrys Morales to a three-year deal earlier this week, Toronto has seemingly filled their first base/designated hitter vacancy, increasing the chances Encarnacion signs elsewhere.
— theScore (@theScore) November 12, 2016
Also, 2016 acquisition Melvin Upton, who hit just.196/.261/.318 in 57 games after he was traded north of the border will likely need a platoon partner in the outfield.
Bruce, 30, was acquired by the New York Mets at the trade deadline on July 31, ending his eight-and-a-half year run with the Cincinnati Reds. At the time of the trade — which netted minor leaguers Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell for the Reds — Bruce was leading the National League with 80 RBIs. He also boasted a productive.265/.316/.559 slash line with 25 homers. (124 wRC+).
However, the three-time All-Star struggled mightily in 50 games with the Mets, slashing just.219/.294/.391 with eight HRs and 19 RBIs (81 wRC+). He finished the season a.250/.309/.506 hitter with 33 HRs and 99 RBIs.
The Beaumont, Texas, native, after a dreadful August in which he hit just.183 with six RBIs, finished 2016 by slashing.254/.321/.521 with six bombs and 13 RBIs in September. However, as evidenced by Bruce’s paltry.685 OPS in New York, he never settled into a consistent offensive groove.
Bruce was benched on several occasions for Alejandro de Aza, Michael Conforto, and others. Acquired to spark an injury-riddled Mets offense, Bruce did not contribute what was expected and the Amazin’s snuck into the postseason in spite his production.
“It’s difficult, for sure. Frustrating,” he said (via the New York Daily News). “The main thing is that I haven’t played well, but the silver lining in that is the team has played well. We’re still in a good position wild-card wise and the playoffs, and I still plan on being a big part of this hunt for a World Series here. This is just a blip.”
Conforto, Curtis Granderson, and Bruce are currently the Mets’ projected outfield in 2017. However, the team has made it clear that retaining Yoenis Cespedes is a priority — which would leave a logjam in the outfield.
Blip and depth aside, the Mets elected to pick up a club option worth $13 million to retain Bruce for 2017. Since his MLB debut in 2008, Bruce is a career.248/.318/.467 hitter and has averaged nearly 27 HRs and 82 RBIs per season. While Bruce comes with defensive limitations, he also comes with a consistent bat.
— New York Mets (@Mets) November 5, 2016
Toronto targeted Bruce last offseason and at one point, reached a deal to acquire him. As FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported in February, the Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels and Reds reportedly had a deal in place to send Bruce to Toronto.
In the proposed deal, outfielder Michael Saunders would have gone to the Angels, Bruce to Blue Jays, and several prospects to Cincinnati. However, an issue with the medical of a player — believed to be one of the prospects going to the Reds — ultimately ended the trade.
“It sounds like the effort they were making to trade me was pretty diligent so it’s a big surprise that I came out on the other end of it so far,” Bruce told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “I still would like to stay (in Cincinnati). I’ve been here since I was 18, and I always wanted to finish my career here. But I’m not naive to the fact that something could happen at any moment.”
Toronto has also discussed potentially signing fellow left-handed swinging outfielder Josh Reddick but no deal is imminent.
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