The more I consider the reported terms of six-year/$51 million contract the Reds have reached with right fielder Jay Bruce, the happier I get. Assuming everything gets signed, sealed, and delivered, I think it’s a great deal for all parties concerned, and that’s rarely the case in baseball contract negotiations.
Six years, $51 million, with an option for a seventh year at $12 million (and a $1 million buyout). This buys out all of Bruce’s arbitration-eligible years, as well as two (and possibly three) of his free agency years. My first thought was that this deal provides security for Bruce, and a slightly-discounted price for the Reds (assuming Bruce experiences a normal career arc). Good for Jay, good for the Reds.
More important to the Nation, this is a great deal for the fans. Jay Bruce is among the most mature young men I’ve seen at his age, he’s a hard worker, and he clearly enjoys being a Cincinnati Red…oh, and did I mention he can mash a baseball while playing the best RF defense in the league?
FanGraphs has their usual exhaustive look at the contract, and you should go over there and read every word (it’s a great analysis, and I won’t repeat their mathiness here). Their conclusions are similar to the initial reaction most of us experienced:
If one feels compelled to pick a Ã¢â‚¬Å“winnerÃ¢â‚¬Â here, it is definitely the Reds. They are probably paying Bruce below what he would get his talent and situation. More significantly, as mentioned earlier, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“salary chartÃ¢â‚¬Â I use is optimized for free agency, that is, players typically usually in their late 20s and older and thus typically subject to decline. Bruce will only turn 24 next April, so he probably has at least a couple more seasons of his true talent increasing, which could reasonably be thought to add at least another $10 to $20 million dollars (or more, depending on what aging curves are employed) of value to the Reds side of the ledger. Finally, some would argue that the defensive rating for Bruce used here is far too conservative.
I do wonder how the negotiations went if Bruce and his representatives felt they needed to give the team control over his first three years of free agency (once the club option is taken into account). Still, $51 million dollars is $51 million dollars, so I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fault Bruce for taking the deal. As for the Reds, there is no doubt they have to be thrilled to be paying an emerging young star less annually (on average) for what will likely be the best seasons of his career. If things go badly for the team, they now have a massive trade chip comparable to Justin Upton. If things continue to go well, they have allowed themselves the payroll flexibility to subsidize more deals like the one recently given to Bronson Arroyo. Make of that what you will.
I think the deal is a bit more favorable for Bruce than FanGraphs suggests, but we’re arguing over irrelevancies at that point. This is a good day to be a fan of the Cincinnati Reds.