In one of the stranger turn of events, the Cincinnati Reds are in discussion with the New York Mets about Jay Bruce.
The Cincinnati Reds have answered the phone when the New York Mets have called about Billy Hamilton right after it appeared that Hamilton was a shoo-in to return in 2017. What is weird is that the Mets are offering Jay Bruce as part of the deal back to the Reds. While the Reds have been talking, it is the rest of the deal will make or break these discussions.
The Mets have Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, and Curtis Granderson penciled into their outfield to start 2017. They also have defensive whiz Juan Lagares and prospect Michael Conforto in the mix. Right now the plan appears to be start Granderson in center with copious amounts of playing time for Lagares to keep Granderson fresh.
The Mets’ goal is to add a center fielder so that Granderson and Conforto can share right field and Lagares can be a defensive back-up. Hamilton fits in nicely with that idea. Unfortunately for the Reds, the Mets are not so sure that Hamilton can maintain his OBP increase from 2016.
If Hamilton regresses, he is too similar to Lagares to make sense for the Mets, especially at the price that the Reds are asking. The other question the Mets have to ask is much better is Hamilton than Bruce? If Bruce has a good year offensively, he is vastly superior to Hamilton.
The Cincinnati Reds have a high asking price for Billy Hamilton that the Mets aren’t likely to match beyond Jay Bruce.
The way that the Mets are framing their offers for center fielders is that they are offering Bruce and asking for a center fielder back. They are not asking what the other team wants for the center fielder. That is the angle that the Mets took with Andrew McCutchen and Charlie Blackmon, quickly shutting down discussions.
The issue for the Reds is who the Mets would send back to make up for Bruce’s short term deal. They are also concerned about the difference in salary between the two players. The Reds are looking at players on the Mets’ forty man roster like infielder Gavin Cecchini or outfielder Brandon Nimmo. Meanwhile the Mets are thinking more along the lines of P.J. Conlon, a long-term starting pitching prospect. It is that difference that will keep the deal from happening.
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You have to feel for the Reds’ front office. They have additional relievers and infielders, but teams keep asking about Hamilton and the young starting pitching. That is why Bruce will not make a return to the Reds in 2017.