Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce has been coming up a lot in conversation as a potential trade target, so why not give him the dressing down that comes with being the eye of affection? Particularly since he was missed in the latest version of our outfield trade target list, which, I can't imagine why that happened. That author is a bum.
Bruce was drafted in the first round in 2005 by the Reds, and ran his way through the minors over the next two and a half years, posting a wRC+ of 150 or better at every stop after Low-A. In 2008, he supplanted Ken Griffey Jr. who was traded to the White Sox* for reliver Nick Masset (who was pretty good until he was injured) and infielder Danny Richar (who is tearing it up for the Aguascalientes Rieleros right now). Though he played a bit of center field that season, he has been a fixture in right for the Reds ever since.
*I forgot that Griffey played for the White Sox that year, but the deluge of memories have rushed back. GM Ken Williams pursued The Kid as a fourth outfielder, and Griffey accepted the trade with the hope that Chicago would be his last best shot at playing in the World's Series. Chicago lost to Tampa in the ALDS, and Griffey's three home runs and 150 plate appearances with the South Side were swept into history's dust bin of regrets.
Bruce's best season was in 2010, when he hit .281/.353/.493 and received positive marks for his defense, which have been scarce to come by in the intervening years. Overall, he's been worth -18.7 Runs in the field, which is compensated for by the fact that he is a sterling offensive talent. His career wRC+ of 110 may not look like a standout, but his season-by-season figures tell a different story:
In 2014, Bruce dealt with a knee injury that required surgery. He returned to game action after only two weeks, and it showed throughout the season. So much so that Reds manager Bryan Price stated in an interview last February that the organization mishandled Bruce's return to the lineup:
Bruce struggled upon his return, hitting career-lows of .217 and 18 home runs.
"It's an after-the-fact thing," Price said. "If I could have known how it was going to turn out, I would have sent him out and let him do some rehab and really verify that he was feeling great. But there were a lot of components in that decision. We were scuffling. He was trying to be that responsible, middle-of-the-order player. We had injuries at the time. We weren't playing terribly well."Of course, we put him through all the paces. There wasn't anything he didn't do, except play. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to play for four or five days. But I'm saying this after the fact. He passed all the tests. He got the thumbs. We went with it. I don't think we saw Jay Bruce at 100 percent any time after the injury last year.
So, bearing that in mind, Jay Bruce is a 28 year-old outfielder whose career triple slash is .251/.325/.468, which is a line that he has trumped every year since 2010, save for last season when he was Omar Infante.
His defense is not particularly good, which is to say the metrics don't particularly like him. His -7.0 UZR/150 last season was worse than Rios' -4.3. But again, bad knee. Bruce did have a positive season in 2013, but the two years before that were also not good. So, he's probably not very good. And that's playing in an outfield that is, to put it kindly, far less expansive than Kauffman Stadium.
He's a better hitter though. A much better hitter. He's got a career 9.5% walk rate, a .216 ISO, and he does fun things like hit home runs and doubles. He's also stolen at least five bases a year since 2010, if you are into that sort of thing. And if the defense is zero sum when compared to Rios, then it would behoove Kansas City to make a move on him, presuming they aren't sold on Rios' recent resurgence. For comparison, here is where Jay Bruce would rank on the Royals this season:
- HR: 15 (t-1st)
- RBI: 48 (t-2nd)
- Doubles: 20 (3rd)
- Triples: 3 (t-4th)
- ISO: .226 (1st)
- wOBA: .351 (3rd)
- BB%: 11.7 (2nd)
- OBP: .340 (5th)
- SLG: .481 (2nd)
Bruce is also under contract thru 2016 for the oddly specific amount of $12,541,666. That all of his salary figures since 2011 have ended in 666 is most likely a rounding error caused by his $250k signing bonus paid out over six years, and not an indicator that he is trying to steal some of the Cardinals' devil magic. There is also a club option for 2017 at $13 million which, for his age-30 season is likely to be a bargain for his expected value. He also has a limited no-trade clause to eight teams, but fear not true believers, as it has been reported that the eight teams are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees.
So there it is. Jay Bruce. Speculation on would it take to acquire him is probably left to better minds than I, but something along the lines of Brandon Finnegan and Jorge Bonifacio would be on the upper end of expected return value. I'm not particularly high on Finnegan, although I am slightly higher on Bonifacio than others. Something along the lines of Bonifacio, Miguel Almonte, and a low-level lottery ticket or near-majors project might be enough as well.
There's also some concern about the assumed cost for Kansas City. That is to say, there is a fear that Bruce's contract for 2016 and potential option year in 2017 would preclude the Royals from re-signing Alex Gordon, which would be less than ideal.