Jay Bruce: Rumors and the waiting game

I was catching the Rainiers rout of the El Paso Chihuahuas, 11-1 at Cheney stadium last night.  My friend Dave has an amazing season ticket package, kind of a flexible pass that allows him up to eight seats for any home game Monday to Thursday for $280.  As long as you use ’em you can’t go wrong.  And on a warm July night, Cheney is pretty amazing.

I was particularly interested in watching Dan Vogelbach, who the Mariners acquired from the Cubs in a trade for pitcher Mike Montgomery.  Unfortunately, the big left-handed DH went 0-4 with a walk.  Thankfully his teammates pounded out 16 hits, scoring eleven runs without the benefit of a homer.

This was my second Rainiers game with Dave in a week. I was completely enjoying myself when I heard a gasp from a guy a couple rows behind and rapid fire explanation the Mariners were trading for Jay Bruce. I was shocked, but quickly pulled out my iPhone and checked MLBTradeRumors for confirmation.  No, not so, the M’s are just in on discussions with the Reds for Bruce, along with a bunch of other teams, who will almost certainly be traded to somebody .

Ahhh rumors.  The stock in trade for all bloggers as we approach the trade deadline. Honestly, who knows what will happen by Sunday.  Yesterday I learned over my morning granola the Mariners traded struggling reliever Joaquin Benoit to Toronto for struggling reliever Drew Storen.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen, freed from the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre, barfed up four runs in the M’s 10-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

An effective set-up man and closer for the Nationals in 2015, Storen has bombed in 2016, the final year of his contract. Ten years younger than Benoit, Storen has a chance to improve his position in his quest for a new contract. Informed of the trade, Storen took the PC rout and tweeted out his praise for Ken Griffey, Jr., and Jay Buhner.    Unfortunately in his first outing in blue and teal in Pittsburgh, he coughed up four runs in 1.1 innings.  Note to Drew: don’t include “road trip to Pittsburgh” in your resume.

But since we have no actual deals to pick apart, let’s take a look at Jay Bruce and what he could do for the Mariners. The M’s are kind of a mess in the outfield. Off season acquisition Leonys Martin is one of the deals that has worked out as planned, providing the hoped for defense in center field, and more offense than Jerry Dipoto predicted.

Right fielder Nori Aoki has been a disappointment, both at the plate and in the field, spending time in Tacoma as a result. Aoki’s misplayed fly ball in last night’s game opened the gates for the Pirates to take an early three run  lead in the third inning.

Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez  share the role of left-fielder.  Both players have provided solid offense with a 119 and 116 OPS+ respectively.  But Smith is no whiz in the field, offering a -11 Defensive Runs Saved, and a -21.5 UZR 150.  That’s not good.  Guti remains an above average fielder with 0 DRS and 7.8 UZR 150.  So they almost split the difference defensively.

Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce to the Mariners?  That’s a rumor floated in a couple of sources. Would he be the right guy for the M’s?  Hard to say.

My guess is if the M’s make a move for an outfielder it’s to replace Aoki, and Jay Bruce could be that guy. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Bruce has rebounded nicely with a .271/.323/.572 slash and 130 wRC+.  He’s definitely a striker outer, but his 20.9 K% is the lowest of his career.  This plays much better than Aoki’s .253/.323/.333.  Though Aoki was acquired to provide on-base skills, outfield defense, and a little speed, his performance has provided none of that, and he is well below his career averages.

Defensively neither Aoki or Bruce are strong defenders. Aoki has provided a -5 DRS and -7.9 UZR 150.  Bruce is a -12 DRS and -20.6 UZR 150.  August Fagerstrom took a look at Bruce’s defensive metrics at FanGraphs, and determined that Bruce especially struggles going back on balls over his head.  That is not a deficiency that will play well at Safeco.

There is little question  Bruce will contribute even more to an improved offense. He has the balance of $12.5 million remaining on this contract year.  He also has a team option year for 2017 for $13 million and a team buyout for $1 million. So Bruce is not quite a rental, and if he continues to perform, he could be a fairly priced option for the M’s next year  The question is, what would it cost to get him? My guess is the Reds will be looking for young, controllable players as the Reds strip down and build around Joey Votto.

I am a believer the M’s will improve when their pitching and outfield defense improve. Bruce at the plate would be a nice add, and if the package was relatively harmless or from the low minors I could be in. Walt Jocketty, Reds G.M. suggested it would be a mid-level prospect, whatever that means.   But Bruce is not a pitcher and does not play good outfield defense. Honestly, I’d prefer the Mariners save that outfield spot and take a look at Guillermo Heredia when he recovers from his injury.  He’s put up some  solid minor league numbers, played center field, would be a very good corner outfielder. Heredia would already be with the big club if he hadn’t jammed his shoulder.

When it comes right down to it, this is all just rumors-a-go-go.  By Sunday our heads will be spinning and checking MLBTradeRumors on the hour won’t be frequently enough.  Oooh look, talks about Tai Walker, James Paxton and Wade Miley.  Right. . .

 

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