Toronto Blue Jays Interested In Outfielder Jay Bruce
The Toronto Blue Jays have had their foot on the gas to start this exciting off season thus far and as expected, Alex Anthopolous is showing no signs of slowing down. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported yesterday that the Blue Jays have their eyes on outfielder Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds.
There is already so much uncertainty in how the Blue Jays outfield will look next season after the departures of Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose, combined with Melky Cabrera hanging in the wind. The Bruce rumour brings more anticipation to Jays fans and comes with new questions of how he would fit into the lineup?
The Reds had a disappointing season in 2014 with a 76-86 record and have reportedly been looking to shed salary. It’s unknown how serious the trade rumors are involving Bruce, as other former all-stars like Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips have also been thrown around recently. Despite having his least productive season in the big leagues, Bruce is certainly someone the Blue Jays should be serious about.
Jun 21, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) slides safely into third under Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, left, after a hit by Ryan Ludwick in the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
It was an ugly year for Bruce as far as his standards go. He had career lows in home runs (18), batting average (.217), on base percentage (.281), and wins above replacement (-1.1) to name a few. Ironically, it may be the perfect time for the Blue Jays to take a stab at the 27-year-old. The asking price for Bruce has never been lower, coming off his worst season as a big-leaguer and with the Reds looking to cut salary. Meanwhile, Toronto has shown clear signs that they have more money to spend. I can’t recall the Reds ever considering moving the outfielder after his three consecutive seasons with 30+ home runs.
Bruce is owed $12 million in 2015, $12.5 million in 2016, and has a $13 million team option in 2017 with a $1 million buy-out. It is a reasonable contract for a big-time run producer, particularly for a Blue Jays team that is missing a legitimate power threat from the left side of the plate. It’s been five seasons since the Jays had a left-handed batter who slugged at least 30 home runs in a season (Adam Lind hit 35 in 2009). Having Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Bruce in the middle of the lineup could be a force to be reckoned with.
Sep 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) celebrates a home run with Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10 ) during the fifth inning in a game against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce is not going to solve all the Blue Jays problems. Like many power hitters, he is going to strike out a lot and will have his slumps. With his two-year contract and the potential to be hitting his prime, it is a low-risk/high reward option for the Jays in my opinion. A move for Bruce would likely see him play as the everyday starter in left field and get some time in as the designated hitter. Dalton Pompey seems like the guy that is destined to be next year’s centre fielder for the Blue Birds and Kevin Pillar can slide into left field to face south paws if necessary.
I’ve always been a fan of Bruce’s game and feel like the best has yet to come. A fresh start could help his numbers reach new heights as he approaches a contract year in 2016. Obviously the big question that remains is, what would the Jays have to give up to acquire him?
Sep 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Sean Nolin (35) delivers a pitch against Seattle Mariners during the Jays 14-4 win at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
The Reds have made it clear that despite shopping around their core players, they are not looking to pack it in for the 2015 season. Having said that, the Blue Jays do have a few young starting pitchers that could entice Reds manager Walt Jocketty. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez can be taken off that list. Daniel Norris would be tough to part with, but a good argument could be made for whether he should be part of a deal to attract a big bat. The more likely candidate to be offered is left-hander Sean Nolin. The 24-year-old stands at 6-5 and pitched 87+ innings for the AAA Buffalo Bisons last season with a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Nolin would only be the start of a package worthy enough of bringing in the services of Bruce. Jeff Hoffman and Sean Reid-Foley are other names to throw around.
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At this point it’s all speculation and is hard to piece together what the Reds would really be after in the Jays system. By the sounds of Morosi’s vague report, the Blue Jays have only had internal talks among themselves about taking a shot at Bruce. As long as these rumors continue, I’ll be imagining myself standing in the upper deck of the Rogers Centre on opening day as Bautista, Encarnacion and Bruce hit back-to-back-to-back jacks for the Blue Jays.
How do you think Jay Bruce would fit into the Blue Jays lineup? Do you agree or disagree that he has yet to reach his full potential? Let us know in the comments section below.
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