Cincinnati Reds Rumors: Should Jay Bruce Be Traded?
By Matt Wilkes
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Cincinnati Reds have a number of players with expiring contracts who could be dealt, including Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd and Brayan Pena. They are also reported to be shopping a couple of players with deals that aren’t set to run out after this year in Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce. I’ve already given my thoughts on trading Chapman (spoiler alert: I think the Reds should do it), but I thought I’d also give my two cents on Bruce.
When I argued in favor of trading Chapman, one of my points was that closers are overvalued and are fairly easy to replace. The opposite holds true for offense. Pitching rules in today’s game of baseball and it has become increasingly hard to score runs, so having as many quality offensive players as possible is ideal. If the Reds want to be competitive within the next couple of years, they don’t necessarily need a dominant closer, but having a powerful bat in the middle of their order is a must, which is why I believe Bruce should only be traded if an overwhelming offer is received.
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Although many continue to criticize Bruce for his inconsistency, he’s been one of the Reds’ top hitters over the past two months, perhaps the longest stretch of sustained success in his career. Since May 16, Bruce has raised his batting average from .162 to .251 and is hitting .301/.376/.549 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs, and 33 runs batted in that span. On the season, he ranks fourth on the team in home runs (15), second in RBIs (49), second in on-base percentage (.338), third in wRC+ (119), and third in fWAR (1.7). He’s also walking at a career-high rate (11.9 percent) and striking out at a career-low rate (22.7 percent).
It may have taken him a few years to do so, but it seems that Bruce has figured things out at the plate. If the Reds want to be competitive in the coming years (and they have the pieces to conceivably do so if the young pitching pans out), Bruce will be a key offensive piece. Replacing his production wouldn’t be easy to do and you can’t expect young prospects like Kyle Waldrop or Yorman Rodriguez to step in and put up those kinds of numbers, either.
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Another reason to keep the right fielder is his contract. Per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the reason that Bruce is available is so the Reds can save money. Bruce is set to make $12.5 million in 2016 and has a $13 million team option for 2017, which is a considerable amount of money, but is still a fairly team-friendly contract for a player of his caliber. Nick Markakis was signed to a four-year, $44 million deal by the Atlanta Braves before the 2015 season that will pay him $11 million annually. That’s fairly close to what Bruce is making this year and considering he’s still 28 and hits for more power than Markakis, you’d have to think he would be earning considerably more than $11 million a year if he hit the open market.
If the Reds do decide to move Bruce, then is there really any point in holding on to Todd Frazier? Jocketty has already said he won’t move the third baseman—whose value may never get higher than it currently is—but selling Bruce to save money means that the team probably won’t be adding any big name free agents, thus the 2016 offense would have to heavily rely on Joey Votto and Frazier. Both are great weapons, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to carry the offense by themselves.
Bruce has been discounted by a lot of fans—and possibly even the front office—due to his unproductive, injury-filled 2014, but his bounce-back 2015 season has made him a respected middle-of-the-order hitter once again. If the Reds don’t want to go through a full rebuild and contend again in the near future, they’ll need Bruce in the middle of their lineup.