First off, I applaud the argument put forth by Michael Maffie in his post, The Long View on Jay Bruce. Maffie’s statistical analysis likely swayed some of you into thinking Jay Bruce isn’t one of the big problems with this Reds ball club.

I’m on the other side of the fence. I believe the Reds roster is heavily flawed. The payroll is out of whack. Bruce may not be the team’s biggest problem, but trading Jay could fix multiple problems.

Before I dive into why Cincinnati should deal Jay Bruce, let’s rewind the calendar back to October 2011. I know it’s never fun to think about a St. Louis Cardinals postseason run, but just for a few seconds, recall what 3B David Freese did in that postseason as the Cards improbably went from wildcard to world champion. Freese was the NLCS and World Series MVPs. The guy mashed eight doubles, five HRs and knocked in 21 runs in those playoffs. Then in 2012, he was an NL All-Star.

But in 2013, he lost it. Freese went from 20 HR in 2012 to just nine in ’13. He batted under .200 in all three postseason series.

Did the Cardinals wait around to see if he would find it again? No sir. St. Louis dealt him to the Angels for whatever they could get (Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk). One bad season and he’s out the door.

Sure, the situations are not exactly the same. Freese was coming up on arbitration and a possible contract extension. The Cardinals probably had eighteen capable 3rd basemen in their organization to take his place. But the point is: St. Louis probably does not win that World Series without David Freese. That doesn’t change the fact that he wasn’t the same hitter two years later.

Back to Bruce. We know 2014 was an awful season for JB. We know about the injury and the quick comeback. We know about The Shift and we know that Bruce has yet to figure out how to consistently lash that predictable outside corner fastball to the vacated area on the field.

We know that Bruce will be paid $12 million in 2015 on a payroll so bulbous that the Reds felt they had to deal a downright filthy sinkerballer due to make a measly $5.5 million this year (Alfredo Simon). And we know that the 2015 Cincinnati Reds bullpen, minus Aroldis Chapman, is one of the worst pens in baseball this year (and maybe ever!).

Here’s what I’m trying to say: Yes, Bruce is walking more, and yes, his BABIP is abnormally low, and yes, when things start shaking in his favor and he gets on a roll, he’ll create a decent amount of runs. But is the chance that he might turn it around worth 10% of the team’s payroll?

I know the Reds would be selling low right now, but so what? Trading Bruce would be about freeing up payroll so maybe the front office can creatively re-stock the bullpen with reliable arms. Deal him for two minor leaguers and a viable reliever. Somebody with a history of fixing hitters (Toronto) or who has a powerless outfield could be talked into a deal. For the trading partner, it would basically be a $25.5 million (minus what he’s been paid so far this year) gamble that Bruce will get back on track at some point over the next two seasons.

As for what to do about right field, hold an open tryout for your top prospects. See what Brennan Boesch can do with regular ABs. If Bruce’s WAR is a net -0.8 over 2014-15, then an average replacement would actually help the team. (And who knows, maybe Jesse Winker’s ready…)

Beyond that, I just think it’s time. I understand he’s a great ambassador for the organization, he gives back to the community and he works really hard. But the question I always ask in these types of situations is this: What would the Cardinals do? I think we all know the answer.

84 Responses

  1. jessecuster44

    I would trade Jay Bruce if there was any option available in RF that would be a starter on another MLB team.

    There isn’t.

    • Frogger

      On the nose Jesse. You don’t trade Bruce right now if there is any chance of winning, because he could help you do that. The Cardinals didn’t need to hope for Freese to figure it out to win. If the Reds can no longer compete this year then he is one of several players to be dealt for young talent. Votto, Hamilton, Frazier, and possibly Cozart if he can be expected to produce anywhere near what he is doing now are the only lineup regulars that I keep.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Entirely agree, Jesse. And, that’s the problem; there is no plan B. With what we have, Bruce gives us the best chance of winning probably (sad, isn’t that). If we aren’t in contention by AS break, I’d trade him for a box of chocolates and find someone over the offseason. There has to be a FA out there next season who could produce better than Bruce and we could give the same money to.

      The question mark is going to be finding someone who wants a player like Bruce with that kind of contract. If possibly, I don’t see us getting much more than a B-level prospect for him.

  2. RWALTERS32

    You are missing you’re own point. The Cardinals had replacements for Freese. We have no replacements. We trade Bruce low and have no one to take his place, “hold open try outs”. We are forced to ride him out for the season or at least to after the all star break. No the Cardinals would not trade low at this point in the season and have no one to take his place.

    • Big56dog

      Lost me at See what Brennan Boesch can do with regular ABs

    • tct

      If I remember correctly, the Cardinals plan was to move Matt Carpenter, who was a relatively unheralded prospect who came out of nowhere to put up a monster season in 2013, from second to third, and have Kolten Wong, a top 100 guy but by no means a sure thing who had been completely overwhelmed in a cup of coffee in 2013, take over second. There was definitely some risk here and I believe Wong got off to a really bad start before picking if up.

      So it wasn’t like the Cards had a sure thing to replace Freeze. But unlike the Reds, the Cardinals are willing to be creative and think outside the box.

    • redmountain

      It should also be noted that Freese is one of the worst 3rd basemen I have ever seen. They had Carpenter for third and Kolten Wong to take over 2nd. The Reds are about two years away from having the replacements. Right now they have two OFs in the majors that are great defensively, but are not hitting. If they start hitting they will be a real factor. This means whether they fix the bullpen or not. Funny how the discussion has shifted away from LF……..

  3. CTRedsFan

    I don’t have a problem with trading Bruce. I don’t have a problem with trading Cueto or Chapman. I don’t even have a problem with an all out fire sale. What I do have a problem with is trusting Walt to manage it!

    The Reds need to rebuild, the window has shut on this core of players, but for an effective rebuild on the field, first the front office must be gutted and rebuilt.

    • lwblogger2

      I agree that I wouldn’t want Jocketty running the rebuilding effort.

  4. Eric the Red

    Uh, no. His defense is still very good. With offense down, you don’t give up a guy with his bat. And the barrier to improving the bullpen isn’t money, it appears to be scouting. (Heck, if they stick to using Cingrani in the 8th with a lead and Hoover/Jumbo if we’re behind, and let everyone else pitch only in a blowout, we may be OK even with the terrible bullpen we have.). Bottom line, a GM should be able to put together some credible middle relief without too much trouble, but 30 HR players don’t grow on trees.

    Yes, Bruce is slumping. But I’d rather see them invest in a nutritionist and maybe a sports psychologist than dump a guy with his proven track record. (Proven over a much longer period of time than Freese, by the way.)

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      This slump has gone on for over a year now. It’s more likely like how some have said, that Bruce has been living off 1-2 good months each summer, poor the rest of the time. The only difference last season, he didn’t have those good 1-2 months. Aka, he’s more like his first 1-2 seasons in the league.

  5. vanwilder8

    Giving up on Bruce today doesn’t make any sense. His BABIP is unsustainably low and his hard hit % is up over his career numbers. He’s on pace for 89 walks (which would be a career high by 36). He’s a plus defender and an elite arm.

    He’s hitting .167 and he’s still on pace for 26 HR and 84 RBI.

  6. jdx19

    While I generally like to take the long-view with Jay, considering he’s produced every year he’s been healthy, I certainly agree trading him, IF you could get two decent minor league guys and a reliever, is probably a good move for the club. Although, I’m not sure he’d garner such a return.

    Any decent FO should be willing to trade any of their players if the price is right. Bruce should be no exception. Now, is Walt drumming up any interest for Jay? Probably not. Maybe he should.

    Interetesting read, Jux.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      3 players for Bruce? We’d be lucky to get one B-level prospect. Player-wise, you are correct. But, contract wise, no one is going to take him with his production.

  7. WVRedlegs

    Jay Bruce is being shopped right now. San Diego is spurring some rumors, and is need of a LH slugger.

      • WVRedlegs

        My Cincinnati banker friend told me this morning that a big lineup/roster shakeup is being considered and that Bruce might be at the heart of it. He said that Cin. has called a couple of teams to guage interest. And SD has been calling Cin. inquiring about Bruce and Leake. It is what he heard over the weekend at some society function he and his wife went to Saturday.

      • vegastypo

        As if San Diego didn’t have enough outfielders already? Must be nice. These ain’t your padre’s Padres, I guess.

      • jdx19

        Unless the person he overheard was part of the Reds’ FO, I’m not sure we should put any stock in this rumor, since it runs contrarty to how the Reds FO has operated under the current regime.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Bruce, I’d have no problem with. But, Leake, we need him if we are going to be in contention this season.

  8. IndyRedMan

    Houston would be a good fit for Jay….not sure what they have in return? The thing of it is….it would be selling low and signal to the fans that the firesale isn’t too far off because we have nobody else to put out there?

    • jdx19

      I could be wrong, but I think Houston is pretty ‘happy’ at the moment with Springer, Rasmus, and Marisnick patrolling the OF for htem. Springer is basically a right-handed Jay Bruce right now, but with more upside. Come to think about it.. most of Houston (outside Altuve, of course) is some form of Jay Bruce. He’d fit right in!

      They have a good farm system, so they’d be able to deal some pieces if they think their window to compete is now. Which would be much quicker than Lunhow thought.

  9. WVRedlegs

    It is sad that you have to regularly reference the Cardinals in regards to a top flight front office. The Reds front office is absolutely pathetic.
    The Cards did the same thing to Allen Craig (Mr. OBP) as they did with Freese. They didn’t wait around.
    Bruce’s RF replacement will have to come back in any trade.
    I thought that 2 triple game Bruce had about a week and a half ago was going to catapult Bruce out of his funk. It seems like it just dropped him further into his funky funk. The clock has struck midnight for Cinderella Bruce. Sadly. the party is over.

    • jdx19

      Yeah, Craig is a perfect example of ‘the Cardinal way.’ A guy who had a season for the record-books and was summarily dumped. I’m sure the injury had a lot to do with it, but what are the odds that the Reds dump a guy who hit .454 with RISP over a full season? Mathematically zero.

  10. bohdi87

    Regardless of surgery I think Mez’s future should be in the OF, meaning Winker could be the future in RF and Mez in LF. That’s waaaaay too forward thinking of this organization though.

    • jdx19

      I like versatility, in general. However, Mesoraco’s value at catcher is so much higher than it is in LF. If the surgery is likely to ‘fix’ him, then I think you just get his surgery on a timetable that allows him to be 100% starting next season. He’s potentially a 4-5 WAR catcher, but likely a 2-3 WAR LFer.

      • reaganspad

        At catcher, he gets 450 abs. in LF, he gets 600.

        the difference in 80 RBI’s and 108.

        You also get 0 War from him in 2015 versus whatever he can contribute in LF for the rest of the year

        You can have the 5 war versus 3 war argument. I’ll take the 28 RBI’s and be happy with Tucker as my catcher.

      • jdx19

        It could be the difference between 60 and 78 if guys don’t get on base in front of him.

        But that’s fine. You like RBI, I like WAR. I’ll leave it at that.

      • bohdi87

        The benefit of him going to the OF is a higher liklihood of staying healthy. I don’t disagree with the WAR argument at catcher but its predicated on him being a healthy catcher.

        Regardless, I’d be surprised if the front office is even having this conversation. They refuse to try things to become better. Mez is a catcher and he’ll always be a catcher is how they see it, I’m sure.

  11. GreatRedLegsFan

    I think that any path for re-build starts with the front office by replacing WJ and returning BP to pitching coach duties. Only then roster issues can be properly addressed.

    • Tom Reed

      You are correct. The rejuvenation of the Reds rests first with changes in the front office and the onus for that in on the principal owner, Bob C.

  12. Alan lewitus

    Bruce has been a liability in the batting order for 3 years, with the exception of one month (May 2013 I believe. Taking him out of the order for someone who can make contact improves the team. Price should have had the balls to pinch hit for him yesterday. I would bat him 8th until he proved worthy of higher.

    • jdx19

      Quite the high bar, Mr. Lewitus. 4.2 WAR in 2013. Hard to do that being a liability 5 out of 6 months.

      • Alan lewitus

        Did you take May out of the equation? I’m curious because I remember that he hit very little the rest of the year but perhapss I’m misremembering.

      • MrRed

        Even if you did, that’s still a hell of a month to produce that overall result. But more to the point, are you suggesting that games in May don’t count?

      • jdx19

        I didn’t look up the individual months because they don’t matter.

        Whether or not I carry the team 80% for 1 month, or 13.33% for 6 months, I’m providing the same overall value and contribution to the win column.

        Even though I would also rather Jay be more consistent than not, he still provides value as a streaky hitter. We can’t discount his streaks just because he wasn’t great while in his slumps.

      • RedRed11

        It’s a fair question to ask if a guy’s had one better than crappy month in 2 1/4 years. If so, that’s not just inconsistent. That’s a bad ball player

  13. IndyRedMan

    They could try him 2nd….its working for Byrd? Its most likely that Jay needs a new look and new faces. Encarnacion was never going to hit here….maybe Jay will take off somewhere like Edwin Scissorhands did?

  14. Art Wayne Austin

    I always compare Jay Bruce with Jon Jay ever time we play the Cards. Jon wins every time and he’s the team’s 4th outfielder many times when he doesn’t get in the game or pinch-hits.

  15. Jeremy Conley

    First off, the idea of trading Jay Bruce now just doesn’t add up. The Reds are trying to stay in contention, and right now our 4th outfielder is Skip Schumaker. Trading Bruce would be a sign of a full-scale sell off and clearly that isn’t going to happen when the club is .500 after playing most of their games on the road for one month of a long season.

    Second, I don’t understand how the author can so easily glides over this sentence “Yes, Bruce is walking more, and yes, his BABIP is abnormally low, and yes, when things start shaking in his favor and he gets on a roll, he’ll create a decent amount of runs.” Those are exactly the reasons to not give up on Bruce now, and then the author immediately returns to saying it’s time to give up on Bruce. I don’t get that.

      • reaganspad

        agreed, I do not like the idea of selling Jay Bruce right now.

        Now Leake and Phillips I am ok with because we do have 2 replacements in AAA for 2nd base in DeJesus and Falu.

        that seems more like the Cardinal way…

      • CTRedsFan

        As a 5 and 10 player Phillips can veto any trade. I suspect he would decline any trade other than to Atlanta.

    • Jux Berg

      Bottom line: Do you trust Bruce to move a runner or knock a run in when the team needs it?

  16. Andrewpky

    Simple fan observations: Mechanically, his swing has become longer and he’s pulling off on the ball. He doesn’t make the in game adjustments (like most of the Reds hitters), such as shortening your swing on 2 strikes. He’s had this approach for the past two years. Pitchers know all you have to do is bust him inside, then go away. It’s really hard to watch.

    • jdx19

      I’m not a swing mechanics specialist, so I can’t comment on his swing becoming longer, but very few MLB players change their mechanics with 2 strikes. At least, not many that I have noticed.

      • IndyRedMan

        Trade Bruce and give Leake his money or Chapman if possible? We’re way too reliant on HRs and have been for years and JB is the poster boy for that.

      • beelicker

        Reds still only MLB team to be underwater in ‘other’ XBH/HR ratio at 37/39 … only Boston, Baltimore & Houston (because of 45 HRs) are anywhere close at 9, 9 & 10

        & the Reds’ negative 28 2B/39 HR ratio surely has to be nearing some kind of uncharted territory in league history for this point in the season? That is #3o & 11 fewer than 3 teams in the 2B column while being #5 in HRs & tied with 3 for #4 in 3Bs (9)

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        He needs to change his entire batting approach, period. He needs to suck it up and say, “I need to change.”

  17. Scott Carter

    I have always been a Jay Bruce fan, but even I am beginning to wonder how hard should it be for a major league hitter to step into and outside pitch and take it to left field. I used to always get excited when Bruce came up with runners in scoring position, but now to watch him try to hit is exasperating. It is like a golfer pulling off the ball and wondering why he is slicing. The fix should be easy. Either the Reds needs to get a new hitting coach or get Bruce to start listening. With that said I would be willing (like I have any say in the matter) to give him through May to get it straighten out but then I think it is time to cut bait.

  18. Ann Valerin

    Amen-what is wrong with this guy? Bryan Price should sit him on the bench and I guarantee he’ll start listening and change his approach. It’s like he’s too comfortable being bad-year after year.

  19. Ann Valerin

    Why are the Reds thinking of trading him without sitting him on the bench for a few days and seeing if the hit to his pride gets him out of his slump-sometimes a mad player is a good player.

  20. earmbrister

    Bruce will be fine in time. He’ll go on one of his patented tears and will drag the team with him as he does. If pitching and OF depth is what the Reds upper minor league teams offer, I don’t see trading him at this time. If a couple of the prospects knock the door down, then by all means it would be a consideration. However, that’s a discussion for this winter and next season/winter. With a team option, the Reds control JB thru 2017 at a reasonable cost for a slugger in his prime.

    I’d consider trading Bruce when his replacement is readily apparent; and I’d trade him for help elsewhere on the diamond. Until then, he’s one of the Reds more dangerous hitters, who just happens to be in a slump for about 45 days (and I don’t consider 2014 to be anything but an injury anomaly).

    • IndyRedMan

      If he goes on one of his heaters then trade him and give the money to Leake. Leake is prob a 3.50 pitcher at best before its all said and done but we need him w/Cueto and prob Chapman bolting.

    • aceistheplace2

      This is the type of thinking that is running the Reds organization into the ground.

  21. James

    If only Joey Votto were traded to the Cardinals, the writers on this website could find everything they love in just one place: St. Louis.

    • Matt WI

      They may be the enemy, but they are an admirable one. A good model to learn from is nothing to sneeze at. Don’t worry, everyone still hates Chris Carpenter. 🙂

    • gus

      get rid of price ,marquis,it is time to bring up some minor boys they can not do any more bad then what is out there

      bobgschdaytona

  22. James

    They’re a model organization, but the Cardinal love on this Reds fan site can get nauseating at times. Just had to let it out. 🙂

    • Frogger

      The most nauseating part is they deserve it. No one on this site wants to see St. Louis win and the Reds lose. I wouldn’t read this site if it was fanboy non-sense that was happy and celebrated no matter how terrible the Reds played. I consider this site a good place to consider intelligent views on how to improve the team, as well as, celebrate the things they do well.

      • James

        I like the critical stance, too. But the Cardinal love is grating. I think they deserve credit but that they should not always be held up as the correct alternative to whatever the Reds are doing. The Reds have also done a lot right (such as developing starting pitchers) in ways that differ from the Cardinal Way.

      • jdx19

        Very well-stated, Frogger. I often think that, as well. I dislike fanboy attitudes in any avenue of life. I’m glad this site keeps that to a minimum and realism at a healthy level.

    • jdx19

      Don’t confuse “Cardinal love” with “using the Cardinals as an example of a well-run organization.”

      I hate the Cardinals. And it’s bordering on non-sports hate. But, I am intelligent enough to recognize they are well-run and I wish the Reds FO would display more of their tendencies.

      • Jux Berg

        Amen JDX19! If you want to beat the Cardinals, you’ve got to operate like them. You can’t give out long contracts to marginally good players (Phillips, Homer, etc) because then you won’t have money to pay the rare talents (Cueto, Chapman) or the better players (Leake > Bailey in my opinion).

        And, you can’t wait around forever for guys to figure it out. Jay Bruce has been a good ballplayer, but he ain’t irreplaceable.

      • George Mirones

        JDX is right on target. The sincerest form of flattery is copying and improving on a system that has proved itself. That’s the way business operates. My ongoing contention is the owner is the responsible person. He hired and renewed his baseball staff and approved the player contracts. The only person who can make change happen sits at the top of the organizational chart. The title of owner is the only position that you can’t fire or change.

  23. Vanessa Galagnara

    This is the very season why Mesoraco needs to go on the DL now and have his surgery. Mes can go play winter ball and learn Left and Right field while getting in some batting practice. Mes is never going to be a good defensive catcher so why continue putting him in their when his defense is a liability?

    Trading Bruce now for whatever you can get to aid the bullpen makes sense. We can find plenty of cheaper options to give us the current output that Bruce is providing.

    • jdx19

      There were 23 catchers with 400+ PAs in MLB last year. Devin ranked 11th out of 23 defensively, according to FG.

      Not sure it’s fair to call him a liability.

    • lwblogger2

      I know catching better than any other position on the field. Mesoraco has his rough edges defensively but he’s actually pretty average back there overall. I also see the potential to be an above average catcher defensively. A guy named Johnny Bench sees some good things in his defense as well. If Mesoraco can physically catch, then he needs to be behind the plate.

      I do agree that he should have the surgery sooner rather than later. It would be good if he could get some work in playing the OF before spring training, just in case he needs to fall back on another position.

  24. dms

    Why do you all actually think he is helping this team. I bet 85 percent of his homeruns are in crap situations when we’re up or down 4-8. He’s neeeever been clutch. Yeaaaa. He hit a pointless homer to send us to the playoffs forever ago and the same Cincinnatian that thinks theyre Getting a good deal at buddys carpet or tire discounters because its been drummed into their head has their kid wearing his jersey.
    Give me a dude who makes contact, moves runners. You love bruce becausehe has power . Soooo do the other teams in the league. So trade his unclutch butt to a dumber org. Theyre out there

    • Steve Mancuso

      Three of his home runs this year were with score 0-0. Check your facts.

      • RedRed11

        Are you counting first inning home runs as clutch? How many of his home runs were 7th inning or later to tie or take the lead?

      • Steve Mancuso

        It’s absurd to say that a home run in the fourth inning in a 0-0 game isn’t important. The inning doesn’t determine the importance, the score does.

      • RedRed11

        Who said it wasn’t important? He said Bruce isn’t clutch, and you reply with your usual snark accompanying a biased stat. If those 3 homers were hit in the first inning it doesn’t fit the definition of clutch.

      • docmike

        What is the definition of clutch?

        I don’t care about some stupid idea of a player being “clutch”. I just want players to help the Reds win ballgames. A homer in the first contributes just as much to that as a homer in the eighth.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Correct, Bruce isn’t helping this team. The thing is, we have no plan B. Until then, it’s Bruce.

      If Winker or Waldrop were even having a good season, I would rather see them up here than Bruce.

  25. RedInInd

    Jay Bruce was one of the Ken Broo/Bill Cunningham main topics on WLW Monday afternoon. Some of Broo’s thoughts: Jay has gotten off-track and the Reds can’t find a way to get him back on. MLB hitting coaches are overrated and likely can’t help, either. Since last year, through spring training, and now, Bruce doesn’t seem to be getting any better and he’s not willing to change his approach at the plate. Whether it’s stubbornness, declining skills, or some other flaw, Jay can’t hit for average. He’s past the point of a slump or bad luck, maybe due to mechanical or psychological flaws. The Reds have to fix Jay before they can get anything for him in a trade.

    • Robby20

      It might help if lost a little weight and got in shape.

      • lwblogger2

        Really, being in shape has very little to do with hitting a baseball. Sure, assuming Bruce is not in the best shape, it would certainly effect other aspects of his game. That said, there are a lot of out of shape guys who were outstanding MLB hitters. Heck, at 44 and fat as I’ve gotten, I can still hit a little. It’s everything else I’m awful at now.

  26. sunbreakthedawn

    I’m so happy this is a website where reasoned discussion over differing viewpoints can occur. Thanks everybody.

  27. Steve Schoenbaechler

    The thing with Bruce was we committed to him longterm after one decent season, actually his third in the majors. It wasn’t a smart contract. Not as stupid as Homer’s was, but not a smart contract. After Bruce had his 2 subpar beginning seasons then had his third better season, you should always wait to see if the player can repeat it, improve on that, or decline. As a result, Bruce has been living off 1-2 good months each season, subpar the rest of the way. The only difference between last season and the previous 4? Bruce had no good months.

    • docmike

      I assume you are talking about 2010 as Bruce’s “third better season”. If so, then he certainly did have success after then. Look at 2011-2013:

      2011 = 32 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, .815 OPS
      2012 = 34 HR’s, 99 RBI’s, .841 OPS
      2013 = 30 HR’s, 109 RBI’s, .807 OPS

      Combined with 2010, that’s four solid seasons in a row. Considering the injury, 2014 looks more like the anomaly to me.

  28. Keith Mullins

    I think the shift has really gotten in his head. He puts that giant looping swing on every pitch. At this point the reds can’t afford the gauranteed out that is Jay Bruce in the middle of the line up. Either trade him or sit him. Give boesch a shot.