Jay Bruce’s days in Cincinnati could be coming to an end. The Cincinnati Reds right fielder has been long rumored to be on the trade block and Thursday evening Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Reds believe the Baltimore Orioles have the prospects to complete a deal. This came on the heels of Rosenthal’s report that the O’s have interest in Bruce. The team is also interested in Pedro Alvarez and Dexter Fowler.
The speculation is that the Orioles will add another hitter before spring training. If that’s via trade or free agency is still yet to be known.
The Bruce trade would make sense for the team. They need a hitter, they don’t want to pay an exuberant amount of money, and he has a ton of upside. The former first-round pick and top prospect in baseball has never lived up to his full potential while in Cincy. The biggest critique of the left-handed slugger has been his lack of consistency and high strikeout numbers.
Coming off of a season in which he slashed .226 / .294 / .434. He can smack balls all over the ballpark, evidenced by his 208 home runs in only eight seasons. However, the last two seasons he’s regressed to the point that his stock isn’t riding very high. That’s bad for Cincinnati, good for Baltimore. For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps.
For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps. He’s signed through 2016 with a club option in 2017. At $12.5 million, he’s affordable as a slugger. He will likely hit a minimum of 25 home runs, and if he gets his average back near .250, or higher, it would be a huge help to the lineup. Even better for Baltimore, should Bruce find the consistency he’s lacked for the duration of his stay with the Reds, he can be picked up on the cheap at $13 million next season. It’s not a bad situation for Baltimore.
For the Reds, with the stock riding so low on Bruce it’s decision time. Already in rebuild mode, Bruce would likely never play for another winning Cincinnati Reds team unless these final two seasons completely tank and they could afford to offer him a deal that would allow the 28-year old to finish his career in Cincinnati. So they’re going to have to move him. Will that happen now or at the deadline? That will likely depend on what Baltimore offers in return.
The prospect exchange for Bruce shouldn’t be too steep of a price. Two years ago when he finished 10th in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger would’ve been the key time to move him. Stuck in a “win now” mentality the Reds refused to deal him, probably not an entirely ludicrous idea as it appeared his career was beginning to trend straight up. Now, however, Bruce shouldn’t fetch anything too severe.
Should the Orioles be willing to part ways with a few prospects, the deal could happen within the next few days. If they low-ball Reds general manager, Walt Jocketty, and refuse to budge, the Reds would wait until the trade deadline and gamble on Bruce having a great first half of the season.
This seems to be a situation with a lot of winning potential for all involved.
For the Reds, the possible gains would be getting a few decent prospects in return for a player they’re likely to lose in the next few years, or keeping him and either getting a similar return at the deadline or possibly an even better deal (his stock can’t fall a whole lot).
For the Orioles, they can take a gamble on a potential superstar and hope that a new city and staff can do the trick for Bruce. Nelson Cruz had his best season in Baltimore after leaving Texas and nearly finished in the top five for MVP. Something remotely close to that would be a huge infusion of offense for the Orioles. This would all come at a relatively small cost for what they may be getting. Bruce is only 28 and still has heaps of potential.
For Bruce, this trade would mean getting a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Maybe some of the inconsistency could be ironed out, and he can blossom into the star he once appeared to be. He’s had a modestly good career to this point, but that breakout potential is still there. This move would be beneficial for him and probably preferred to a mid-season trade. This would also allow him to play in the more hitter-friendly American League and play in meaningful games – something he wouldn’t get to do in Cincinnati.
A Bruce-Baltimore love affair could be just what the doctor ordered for all parties involved. The O’s get offense, the Reds get prospects, and Bruce gets a chance at revival.