Aug 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) hits a double in the eighth inning as Milwaukee Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado (12) watches at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Bruce used to be a good corner outfielder. As recently as 2013, The lefty-hitting Bruce put up a 5.3 bWAR (wins above replacement) season for Cincinnati. But he’s crashed to a barely above replacement level player the last two seasons.
In Jay Bruce’s defense, his awful -1.1 bWAR season in 2014 included a torn meniscus in his right knee that he rushed back from after a mere two weeks. The Reds even admitted that they mishandled his recovery.
That explanation, however, does not excuse his 2015 season—which wasn’t a whole lot better. In 2015, Bruce slashed a mediocre .235/.305/.432 with 26 home runs and 87 RBI’s. That’s hardly a season to write home about, especially when you consider that Bruce played his home games in the bandbox known as the Great American Ballpark.
However, Bruce did suffer from a terrible .251 Batting Average Balls In Play (BABIP) in 2015, which is much lower than his career .287 BABIP. The problem is that his BABIP crashed after his knee surgery in 2014, so you have to wonder if that low rate is now a “new normal” for him rather than an anomaly. Further, Bruce is anything but a “keep the line moving” type of hitter with a 24.2% strikeout rate over his career.
The soon-to-be 29-year old Jay Bruce’s defense has also taken a big hit since his injury. After enjoying a 10.1 Ultimate Zone Rating as recently as 2013, he’s posted a -7.0 in 2014 and -3.8 in 2015. Despite declining range, he still has a strong arm in right with 11 outfield assists in 2015.
Bruce is under contract for two more seasons at $26 million. Given that he put up a mere 0.8 bWAR last season, you have to wonder if he is worth $12 million in 2016. However, the last season of his deal is a team option in 2017 at $13 million, with a $1 million buyout. Bruce is really only a one-year obligation for $13 million, which considerably reduces the risk.
The Reds are now in rebuild mode and would like to shed Jay Bruce’s contract for prospects. Bruce, however, would probably only command two C+ talents in return, which would mean a trade for him probably would have little impact on the KC Royals farm system.
The Colorado options all carry the risk that they won’t perform away from Coors Field, with the possible exception of Carlos Gonzalez who—at least—has a career .757 OPS on the road. Denard Span carries an injury concern, but there’s a good track record of players returning from a torn-labrum. Getting Jay Bruce is a gamble that you might get a rebound two years removed from 2014 knee injury.
The KC Royals have also inquired about Todd Frazier and expressed interest in Gerardo Parra, but Frazier’s price in prospects is likely to be prohibitive and the possibility of adding Parra’s been well-covered by pundits going back to the trade deadline.
Stay tuned KC Royals fans, with Jason Heyward signing the outfield market is likely to sort itself out rather quickly. And, with the Cardinals interested in Alex Gordon, he could make a decision soon.