It has been made public by Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington that the team is considering adding a fourth outfielder this trade deadline. Is Jay Bruce a good fit for the team? He could be one of the rumored outfield options the Bucs are looking at.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lost one of their most productive players last week when right fielder Gregory Polanco injured his hamstring. This is not the first time that the 25-year-old has hit the disabled list this season. Both times the Pittsburgh Pirates have had to get by with a make shift outfield. This was especially problematic at the beginning of the year when the Pittsburgh Pirates did not have Starling Marte in the lineup either. It has become a growing concern that the Pittsburgh Pirates do not have a legitimate fourth outfield option, or one that is good enough to take over when one gets hurt.
Everything mentioned above brings us to the current popular discussion about who the Pittsburgh Pirates could acquire to fill the fourth outfield spot. So far at Rum Bunter, we have discussed the possibility of Melky Cabrera, who is a pending free agent for the White Sox. Another player that has been mentioned mainly by Pirates fans through various forms is Jay Bruce. Bruce is in his final year of his contract with the New York Mets.
Jay Bruce could make a lot of sense for the Pittsburgh Pirates. First off, he is a right fielder, a spot that is being left vacant with the absence of Gregory Polanco. Second, he is a left handed power hitter, something that plays well at PNC Park. Bruce has put up at least 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates rank in the bottom five in terms of home runs, though home run power can be vastly overrated as Pedro Alvarez taught us. Still, he would provide protection behind Andrew McCutchen, who has been pitched around for the last few weeks. The last pro is the fact that Bruce is familiar to the NL Central. He is familiar with many of the pitchers that he would be facing.
On the year the Mets outfielder is batting .264 with 25 home runs and 66 runs batted in. He also is posting a strong ISO and WRC+ at .265 and 121 respectfully. He is doing it with a BABip of .287, suggesting that he is not getting lucky or unlucky, rather he is putting up the numbers that should be expected. All in all, Bruce is having a relatively solid offensive season in a notoriously friendly pitchers ball park. He also has provided solid defense accounting for 6 defensive runs saved and UZR/150 of 2.0. Although, he is not known as a consistent defender.
Now, as great as a season Bruce is having in terms of power, he also is struggling in categories that the Pittsburgh Pirates focus on. For one, he is only getting on-base at a .327 clip. If he were on the Pittsburgh Pirates this would be lowest on base percentage by any of the typical starters. Furthermore, he is only walking 8.4 percent of the time, suggesting that he needs to put the ball in play to have a chance at getting on base. He also is striking out at a very high percentage of 23 percent, which is also his career average. The Pittsburgh Pirates look for players who can get on base and also make contact.
In general, Bruce is having a strong overall season. If he can translate his current production from the Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates, then yes he would be worth dealing for. He is owed a little less than $5 million at this point, so his contract should be affordable also. However, one caution is that his career numbers suggest that he should regress some. His already low on base percentage is actually higher than his career OBP of .319. He also is prone to strikeouts, and once again, Bruce normally strikes out around 25 percent of the time.
The PROS outweigh the CONS, but…
So the real question around Bruce is whether he can sustain his performance for the rest of this season. Personally, I do not believe he will keep it up. His career suggests that he will not. However, he very well could be just having one of those outlier seasons. Still, it is doubtful the Pirates will want to give up what the Mets would want for a player who is name brand and does not fit their philosophy. There will be cheaper (salary and trade cost) options that are more suitable as fourth outfielder players available.