The Reds have gone full rebuild this winter, looking to deal a number of big names for younger, cheaper talent. Thank God. They tried to unload Aroldis Chapman until an alleged domestic violence issue came to light. They successfully dealt Todd Frazier and agreed to trade Brandon Phillips to the Nationals if #DatDudeBP would have only waived his no trade clause. The Reds may have a few minor pieces left to deal, but the last big name they would likely trade is Jay Bruce.
But after seeing what the Reds got in return for Frazier, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m wondering whether trading Bruce right now is a good idea. Jose Peraza may indeed turn out to be a good player, but he has some serious question marks, more question marks than you would expect from the main piece in the Frazier trade. How many more shortcomings will the main return piece for Bruce have?
Bruce is coming off of two poor seasons. In 2014, he was clearly injured. We have video of his awkward, upper body only swing. In 2015, Bruce had one of the strangest seasons I can remember. He had terrible results for the first six weeks of the season. Then, for over two and a half months, Bruce was a top five hitter in the league, slashing .307/.376/.568 from May 16th until August 2nd. From that point until the end of the season, Bruce inexplicably fell into one of the worst slumps of his career (.173/.214/.345), causing me great internal anguish (Why would he do this to me?).
After those two seasons, what would another team be willing to give up to acquire Bruce? If the Reds were the team trading for a guy like Bruce, coming off of seasons where he produced -0.9 WAR (2014) and 0.1 WAR (2015), we would crucify the front office for giving away solid prospects, let alone elite ones.
And thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the problem: Bruce may not be worth trading at this point. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not like the Reds have young outfielders with tremendous potential knocking down the door to take BruceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s place in right field. Ã‚Â He likely wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bring back much in terms of prospects. Should the Reds trade him simply to get his money off the books? They certainly arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to use that extra money to buy a high profile free agent this offseason. With Cueto, Leake, Frazier, and potentially Phillips gone, how much more money do they really need to save?
If the Reds get a good offer for Bruce with a legitimate prospect or two, I have no problem with trading him. In fact, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what they should probably do. If they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get that offer though, if the return doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yield talent that will likely help the Reds win in the future, they shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just give him away.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not to say that Bruce is a long-term piece either. The Reds should consider giving their much maligned right fielder the opportunity to build his value back up this season. Last July, the Mets were willing to part with Zack Wheeler, a big time pitching prospect, for Bruce. Even though Wheeler was coming off of Tommy John surgery, he was a hefty price to pay for the Reds right fielder. But Bruce was toward the end of his strong three month stretch. He looked like a difference maker at the time. The deal didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen, and Bruce fell apart.
If Bruce can show some of the talent that made him a very good player from 2010-2013, the Reds may be able to extract some real value for him at the trade deadline or before in 2016. He still has a club option for 2017, which would give any receiving club an extra year of control if they wanted. Another Wheeler type prospect would go a long way to rebuilding the club and making the Reds contenders again.
Heading into his age 29 season, Bruce could easily have several years of good baseball left in him. Based on what we know of aging curves, he should be in the prime of his career, though some players peek early.
Bruce could struggle again, further weakening his value. But if the Reds arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t getting much in return for him now, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really matter. The risk is worth the potential reward. Rebuilding is most importantly about acquiring young, controllable talent and not merely getting rid of players who have been around a while.
If the Reds want to minimize the amount of time they spend losing, they need to be smart about when they trade players of value. They likely should have traded both Frazier and Bruce last July. After receiving a package full of question marks for Frazier, right now may not be the time to unload Jay Bruce.