Jay Bruce Wants to be a Red Forever


Coming from the desk of Mark Sheldon

"In a couple of weeks, (Jay) Bruce will make a lifetime commitment to his fiancee when the two celebrate their wedding day. On the baseball side of life, the 25-year-old would like to sign an extension that would enable him to possibly finish his career in Cincinnati.Bruce is interested in adding another six years to the deal. The timing might seem odd since he is already under a contract that is guaranteed through 2016."

Jay Bruce wants to be a Red for a long, long time. Maybe forever.

Sheldon notes that Bruce’s agent, Matt Sosnick, states Bruce “made it clear that he wants to be a Red his entire career”. Bruce is already signed through the 2016 season with a club option for 2017. Here’s the breakdown over the remainder of Bruce’s current deal:

2017:$13M club option ($1M buyout)

(Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE)

Does sound a little odd. Already talking extension and we’re not close to the end of his current deal? We still have three years before the option would even be considered. To some, that may give the appearance that the timing isn’t odd. It’s bizarre.

Well, maybe not.

Over the past couple of years, the Reds have taken great strides in securing their “core” players. No question that the team believes Bruce is a part of that core. He wouldn’t have his current deal if that were not the case.

One common refrain we’ve have heard from Bruce supporters refers to Bruce’s age. He’ll turn 26 next April. He’ll only be 29 by the end of the 2016 season. Six more years would make him 35 at the end of such extension if it ever occurs.

Torii Hunter just got a two-year, $26MM deal from the Detroit Tigers…at the age of 37 and will be 38 in mid-July of next season.

Bruce’s agent has contacted Reds GM Walt Jocketty with a number a far as dollars are concerned. At this point, no other contact regarding a possible extension has taken place. No formal discussions have commenced, and, quite frankly, those can be tabled for the moment.

To me, this is good news. To see such dedication from a player to one organization is becoming less commonplace these days. Players want paid, and while there is nothing wrong with wanting that salary, they realize there’s potential to get a raise elsewhere. The team becomes somewhat secondary.

Bruce has been selected to the last two NL All-Stars teams and was recently presented with his first Silver Slugger.

And when you check out Bruce’s page on Baseball Reference, you see a list of names that may (or may not) surprise you. There is a section entitled “Similar Batters through 25”. Check out this list…

Reggie Jackson (971)
Tom Brunansky (952)
Jack Clark (942)
Darryl Strawberry (938)
Jeff Burroughs (936)
Willie Horton (929)
Adam Dunn (929)
Barry Bonds (929)
Boog Powell (928)
Harold Baines (926)

There are some sluggers among that group. The one name that might scare some Reds fans is Dunn.

Others believe Bruce has regressed since 2010. In some areas, this is true. His strikeout rate has shown an increase (from 2010 to 2012: 23.7%, 23.8%, 24.5%), his batting average has dipped (.281, .256, .252), and his on-base percentage has seen a similar fate (.353, .341, .327). Honestly, I think 2010’s .281 batting average was an aberration.

If you one that’s big on WAR, that’s taken a slide as well. On Baseball Reference (since 2010): 4.5, 1.8, 1.4. Fangraphs has Bruce’s WAR over the same time as 5.4, 3.3, 2.4.

You must ask yourself: Is the real Jay Bruce the one from 2010 or an average (or sorts) from his other four seasons? The statistical answer is more toward the latter of those choices. Even if you include 2010, his five-year triple slash is .255/.330/.483. In a 162 game average, he will hit 32 home runs and drive in 91. I can see these being no less than a yearly benchmark for Bruce.

Reds fans know this: When Jay Bruce is locked in, there is no better lefty bat in baseball.

If Bruce can find that consistency at the plate he has so sorely searched for, he will produce even better numbers than what we have seen the last two seasons. An “average” Jay Bruce would be a highly sought commodity by any team if he hits the free agent market. Granted, that is a measure of time down the road.

The tricky part would be finding the means for similar deals with others from that core. I’m sure Johnny Cueto and his agent are watching this closely. I would imagine Cueto could request a similar extension. His deal runs out after out after 2014 with a $10MM team option for 2015. He’s only a year older than Bruce.

But Bruce would prefer to play in Cincinnati.

I have no issue with that.