Aug 29, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
As the hot stove has heated up with rumors and actual deals over the last week, the Cincinnati Reds have popped up in discussions all across the country, the scuttlebutt being that they might be willing to send rightfielder Jay Bruce out of town. Such a move would constitute the start of a rebuild for the Reds, which is not necessarily such a terrible idea, but this particular approach does not seem consistent with the Reds’ reality for 2015. Here are six reasons why now is the wrong time for the Reds to trade Bruce.
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The Reds Need Offense
The Reds were the third-worst team in all of Major League Baseball in 2014 when it came to pushing runs across the plate, ahead of only the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves. That’s a mess of a situation to be in when you play your home games at Great American Ball Park, so the Reds need to ADD big bats to their lineup, not remove them. With Joey Votto battling injuries and declining power, Bruce’s bat is about as big as they come on the Riverfront aside from maybe Todd Frazier‘s.
Bruce’s Value Is Down
In 2014, at age 27, Bruce had the worst season of his Major League career by just about any measure you want to look at. While teams might be willing to look at 2014 as an aberration, the truth is that other clubs won’t give the Reds what they might have had Bruce hit .250 with 30 home runs last season rather than .217 and 18. There are reasons to believe that Bruce will bounce back (see below), so trading him now would be tantamount to leaving money and/or talent on the table.
Bruce Should Be Healthy in 2015
Bruce underwent knee surgery in early part of 2014 but only missed a couple of weeks, when he could have rightly taken a month or more to return. Hindsight says he maybe should have, because he was never quite right the rest of the summer, but he will have an entire off-season of healing behind him once Spring Training dawns. Injuries can linger, of course, but Bruce’s track record says that he is durable, and his age — 28 in 2015 — says he should have few if any lingering effects.
Bruce Is Still Young
As mentioned above, Bruce is in his prime, so we can probably expect him to maintain or maybe even slightly increase his power output for another couple of years. Hitting his peak numbers of 34 home runs (2012) and 109 RBI (2013) would go a long way toward healing the Reds’ sickly offense.
Bruce Is Under Team Control
Those two or three prime years I mentioned above? The Reds control all of them from a contractual standpoint. Bruce will make $12 million in 2015, $12.5 million in 2016 and either $13 million in salary or a $1 million buyout in 2017. Those aren’t cheap salaries, by any means, but they are more than reasonable for the kind of production that Bruce might provide over the next three seasons. The cost to keep Bruce also seems likely to be less than the cost to replace him on the open market.
The Outfielder Market Is Heating Up
Suddenly, Bruce is not the only outfield bat who is available via trade. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard names like Justin Upton, Michael Saunders and Evan Gattis tossed around, and the free agent market still offers such plums as Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Torii Hunter. So, while outfield hitting is more difficult to come by than it was maybe 10 years ago, there are several options available, which means any one of them has that much less value.
The Reds were bad enough in 2014 that they should be getting creative in their attempts to improve for 2015 and beyond. Unless something dramatic and unforeseen comes their way, though, trading Jay Bruce this winter is not the way to get there.