The Orioles once again need a right-fielder after missing out on Dexter Fowler. Could that mean a trade for Jay Bruce?
The fascinating off-season of the Baltimore Orioles continued today as Dexter Fowler left them hanging to sign back with his old club, the Chicago Cubs. It had been reported by several news sources that Fowler had agreed to a three year deal with the O’s just a couple days ago. I was really excited for the supposed addition. Fowler’s ability to get on base and speed was a dimension the Oriole’s were sorely lacking. What it does now is leave incumbents Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, and Rule-5 pick Joey Rickard as options for right-field. The team has shown a willingness to spend for upgrades as the proposed 3/33 million contract for Fowler shows. Unfortunately there isn’t an exact player out there similar to what Fowler brought to the table. To stay in house or try to find someone else outside the organization is now the question at hand.
I firmly believe the Oriole’s will continue to try and find an additional right-fielder. It just won’t be the perfect option. Clearly a left-handed batter is preferred. The in house options of Reimold, Alvarez, and Rickard all bat from the right-side. A lefty would at least be able to form a platoon with this group. Reimold has the ability to back up center-field so whoever they target doesn’t have to but that would be added value. that could lead the O’s back to Jay Bruce.
The Cincinnati Reds have made it clear that Jay Bruce s available for trade but admitted that they would like to move him within the next week. If Bruce doesn’t get moved soon, he is most likely to start the season with the team. He was almost traded to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week before medical concerns showed up with some of the prospects in the return package. O’s fans can relate to that one. It was just a few weeks back that the Orioles had reported interest in Bruce as a trade target. At the time it was believed that Fowler came first in the pecking order but if not him than Bruce. Well, here we are today looking down that order. Some fans won’t love the idea of acquiring him. Jay Bruce is a career .248/.319/.462 hitter. That average and on-base isn’t setting world on fire. I can understand that logic but it does make sense on a couple of levels.
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Trading for Bruce shouldn’t cost too much in both the dollar amount and prospect amount. The Reds are looking to avoid the 12.5 million he is set to count against but that figure is not too much for the Orioles to pay. Bruce also comes with 13 million option. If the Orioles acquired Bruce and he performed well the team wouldn’t have to lose him next off-season. If he came and stunk up the joint all the O’s have to due is decline the option. The O’s farm system isn’t ranked very high so traded away name prospects isn’t a good idea. The Reds don’t seem to want a significant haul. Their objective looks like clearing the salary of the books.
What could Jay Bruce bring to the Oriole’s than as a player? Well first off he fits the bill as a left-handed right-fielder. He brings along two all-star appearances and two silver slugger awards. He isn’t old as he will still only be 28 when the season begins. Bruce brings durability too, as he has played in 137 or more games every year since 2010. What he won’t bring is the much needed speed and on-base ability that Fowler was set to. But I believe, since their isn’t another Fowler out there, that Bruce can still be an asset to this Oriole’s club.
Being left-handed, Jay should feel right at home in Camden Yards. The ballpark is made for lefty power. Everyone knows about the moonshots Chris Davis hits. It also balances out the line-up as Davis and Hyun-soo Kim are the only true lefty hitters penciled in. Matt Wieters is a switch-hitter while everyone else is right-handed. If Jay Bruce does one thing well it’s hit home-runs. For his career, he has averaged 30 homers.
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The last two years for Bruce haven’t been his best so that has to be somewhat of a concern. 2014 was by far his worst. He only batted .217 and a career low 18 home-runs. Part of this though is blamed on a knee injury Bruce suffered. He was making his way back that year from the injury and his poker stroke was sapped. 2015 was better but still not a good year. His average and homers were upped to .226 and 26 respectively but still on the downside of what Bruce is capable of showing. In looking at the 2015 numbers I noticed a big discrepancy in his numbers before and after the month of July. Before July 31st Bruce was hitting .257 with a decent .341 on-base. He also hit 17 home-runs at that point. But in the couple months after Bruce really struggled hitting right around .200 and only 9 additional homers. What’s so important about July 31st? That’s the MLB trade deadline and Bruce looked close to being traded to the contending New York Mets. I believe Bruce really struggled after not being traded froma mental stand point. He was about to go to a team fighting for something to a team fighting for last place. I wonder the effect of coming back to a contending team like the Oriole’s will have on Jay Bruce’s performance.
For his career Jay Bruce has been a solid defensive outfielder. He won’t make the flashy play but he does well is put himself into position to make the routine play. He was 3rd in the National League with 11 assists from the outfield, so the arm is strong enough. Defense is important to Buck Showalter and the team. Bruce isn’t a liability out in right especially next to gold glove winner, Adam Jones.
Bruce also doesn’t have to do much to be better than what the O’s had in right last year. As a team, if you don’t include the games Davis played in right, O’s right-fielders combined for 15 home-runs and 57 r.b.i.’s. Those numbers would be all career lows if that’s what Jay Bruce contributed. The Oriole’s on-base if you include Davis’ would still have been only .318, Bruce’s career number is .319. It would fit right in.
The Oriole’s still need to get an additional out-fielder. They thought Fowler was that guy. He upset a lot of fans, myself included, but options remain. I don’t think Jay Bruce is the worst player they could pick up. Maybe they get the Bruce from 3 years ago when he finished 10th in MVP voting. Maybe you don’t, but if that’s the case it shouldn’t cost too much to find out.