Mets should be cautious dealing Jay Bruce for reliever

While the Mets prepare for 2017 season, the organization shouldn’t discount Bruce’s value in search for bullpen help.

What outfield? This was the question Mets GM Sandy Alderson faced and joked about in his earlier years with the organization. Fast forward to 2016, and now the organization find themselves looking to deal an outfielder to clear up the current logjam that presents itself.

The Mets have glaring needs in other areas of the roster, as it’s being widely reported that organization is aiming to trade Jay Bruce to shore up the bullpen. But as the front office continues to talk to teams during the Winter Meetings, one thing is certain: Alderson must be cautious in trading one of his starting outfielder for a late-inning arm.

There are a number of reasons I say this. Bruce compiled 33 homers and drove in 99 RBIs last season. Those stats alone indicate Bruce has value as a trade chip. Despite the fact Bruce struggled mightily upon putting on the Mets uniform mid-season, he had an impact on the offense in September. Prior to the trade, Bruce was an All-Star who lead the league homers and RBIs, with 25 and 80, respectively.

It’s understandable to think teams looking to acquire an outfielder to boost their offense may have many other options. J.D. Martinez, Andrew McCutchen, Dexter Fowler are all available via trade or free-agency. But Bruce has a proven track record of being a significant middle-of-the-lineup bat.

Secondly, the productivity of relievers greatly fluctuates on a year-by-year basis. In the past, the Mets have acquired a reliable reliever, but doesn’t live up to expectations as a Met. And Alderson is well aware of what has happened in the past.

“I think what is also impactful is the fact that when we sign guys in the Winter Meetings to put in the bullpen, they don’t always turn out that well,” Alderson stated on the lastest episode of Mets Hot Stove on SNY. “Guys we sign in July/August, yeah, they do. And part of that is the volatility from year-to-year.”

Lets take a look at examples that showcase this volatility Anderson was referencing:

  • J.J. Putz – Former Mets GM Omar Minaya acquired the All-Star reliever in a three-team deal which involved 12 players. At the time, this was a power move on the part of Minaya, who had just signed All-Star closer, Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million dollar contract to become the new closer. Roriguez was coming off an impressive 2008 season, in which he broke the major league single-season saves record with 62.

On paper, the Mets had one of the best pair of late-inning relievers in the league. However, things didn’t go as planned for Putz in his only season with the Mets. Putz was ineffective to say the least, posting an ERA above 5 while appearing in just 29 games due to a season-ending forearm injury.

  • Alex Torres – Just before the start of the 2015 season, Alderson traded prospects Cory Mazzoni and Brad Wieck, to acquire the lefty reliever. Prior to joining the Mets, Torres had held lefties to a .216 batting average over his career. However, the reliever issued 26 walks in 34 1/3 innings as a Met. Torres was released in August.

I could continue by listing Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco on this list, but i’ll save you from the heartache.

Addison Reed is a perfect example of how inconsistent a reliever’s productivity can vary in a season. Reed was once an establish closer, who the Arizona Diamondbacks demoted half way through the 2015 season. The Mets were able to acquire Reed at the waiver Trade Deadline for two minor leaguers. Reed has since been an elite reliever for the Mets. Last season, Reed lead the league in holds — 40 — while posting a 1.97 ERA in 80 appearances, which was third most among relievers.

I am not suggesting the Mets hold on to Bruce. I do expect the organization to deal him before next season. However, it may be best to hold off and wait to see which teams miss out on the main free agents and outfielders that are reportedly available. The Mets have a valuable trade chip in Bruce, a chip that worth more than just a bullpen arm or salary relief. Alderson must strike a deal when the timing is right. In the business of baseball, timing is everything.

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