Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Outfielder Jay Bruce

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 10: Jay Bruce #23 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park on June 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Diamondbacks defeated the Phillies 13-8. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 10: Jay Bruce #23 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park on June 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Diamondbacks defeated the Phillies 13-8. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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With the Pittsburgh Pirates on the lookout for some outfield help while needing power as well, this former rival could provide depth in both areas. In fact, his bat may be the perfect left-handed swing for the short porch in right field at PNC Park.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the worst teams in baseball when it came to power in 2020. They ranked third to last in home runs with 59, next to last in isolated slugging percentage with a .137 mark and last in slugging percentage at .357. They’ve lost power over the course of this offseason as well by trading switch hitting slugger Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals.

Another area the Pittsburgh Pirates could use some help at is the outfield. Currently, the outfield would line up with Bryan Reynolds in left field, Gregory Polanco in right and either Anthony Alford or Jared Oliva in center.

Reynolds could move to center after showing improved defensive prowess outfield, which could lead the Pirates to getting a corner outfielder. One that gives them a solid option in left as well as power is longtime Cincinnati Red Jay Bruce.

Now yes, Bruce isn’t the same hitter he was back in the early 2010s. However that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been non-productive at the plate. In the last two years, Bruce has collected 436 plate appearances with the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies. He’s batted for a .212/.259/.510 line, has slugged 32 home runs and has put up a 94 wRC+/98 OPS+.

Overall, the production is slightly below league average. But he’s definitely the power bat the Pirates could use. He’s hit as many home runs as sluggers like Joey Gallo, Kyle Seager and more than Justin Turner and Ozzie Albies. Among batters with at least 400 plate appearances since 2019, he ranks seventh in isolated slugging at .298, ahead of Cody Bellinger, Eugenio Suarez and Aaron Judge.

Bruce is also still a solid defender in the outfield corners. Between the two outfield spots, the lefty slugger has played 593 innings and has +4 DRS, 2.0 UZR/150, 1.7 outfield arm runs above average and only -0.2 range runs above average and -1 outs above average. He can also sub in at first base from time-to-time as he’s increasingly seen time at the infield corner spot.

There is some chance that Bruce could be a better hitter than he has showed. While he’s never been a big average hitter, he had an xBA of .252 in 2019 and .237 in 2020. His xwOBA also outweighed his actual wOBA in the two seasons. He also still makes hard contact quite often with a 90.2 MPH exit velo and 43.7% hard hit rate in 2019 and 89 MPH exit velo and 38.9% hard hit rate the following season.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates need some power and someone to help fill out the outfield depth. Not only does Jay Bruce fill both of these roles, but he can also provide some utility at first base. He may also be a decent piece to trade come the deadline.

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