The slow-moving MLB free agent market finally played into the Mets’ favor. Slugger Jay Bruce, who went into the winter looking for an expensive long-term contract, has agreed to terms with the Mets on a three-year deal that will bring him back to Flushing, according to an industry source.
The deal is worth $39 million according to the source, but is pending a physical. The deal calls for Bruce to make $10 million this year and $13 million the next two seasons, according to the source. He gets $3 million as a signing bonus.
Bruce gives the Mets some insurance in the outfield and in the lineup as Michael Conforto recovers from surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder. He also can give young first baseman Dominic Smith some more time to develop without the pressure of having to produce every day.
Most importantly, Bruce adds to what would have been an anemic projected 2018 lineup.
Struggling after coming to New York at the 2016 trade deadline, Bruce not only proved that he could play in New York in 2017, but he basically carried the Mets’ injury-plagued lineup. He hit .256 with 29 home runs and 75 RBI for the Mets last season. After he was dealt to the Indians in August, he hit .248 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in 43 games for Cleveland. In just 18 at-bats in the postseason, Bruce hit .278 with two home runs and four RBI.
The Mets had been open about their desire to bring back Bruce, and he had told people within the organization that the team would be among the top four he would like to sign with this winter.
But the money and the length of the contract he wanted were an issue for the Mets, who have said they will be under the $154 million payroll with which they began 2017.
Bruce, who will be 31 in April, had gone into his first free agency looking for a five-year deal worth over $50 million, according to a source who spoke to him this fall.
The lack of movement on the free agent market this winter, particularly with top slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez still out there seemingly holding up other players seems to have created a buyers market in January.
While robust for relievers, the free agent market this winter has been shockingly slow for other players.
All four of the players projected as this winter’s top free agents — Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer and Martinez — remained unsigned as of Wednesday night.
With spring training five weeks away and some players admittedly beginning to get nervous about their ever-nearer futures, teams are able to negotiate more team friendly deals.
That seems to be what the Mets got with this deal for Bruce, who will provide a steady presence in the lineup.
Coming from the Reds at the 2016 trade deadline, the Mets picked up the $13 million option on Bruce’s contract as insurance against Yoenis Cespedes opting out of his contract in November 2016. Cespedes opted out but then re-signed, and the Mets had shopped Bruce and his $13 million contract consistently prior to dealing him to the Indians. In 2017, Bruce was the steady engine in the Mets lineup and its only consistent bat with Cespedes missing half a season with hamstring injuries.
The Mets had mulled holding onto Bruce and giving him a qualifying offer, but gambled and sent him to Cleveland for righthanded pitching prospect Ryder Ryan, a converted third baseman.
Send a Letter to the Editor