After a sluggish start to the off-season, the Mets struck a deal to bring back a key piece of last season’s lineup. Outfielder Jay Bruce agreed to a three-year, $39-million deal with the Mets on Wednesday night, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations.
The people were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly because it was pending a physical examination, and the team had not yet officially announced it.
Bruce is expected to play primarily in right field but he could see action at first base, one person familiar with the deal said. The Mets sought a reunion with Bruce, a three-time All-Star, because of his positional versatility, his reliable power and his experienced presence in the clubhouse.
Bruce, who will turn 31 in April, was the most consistent power hitter in the Mets’ lineup last season and a well-liked teammate who quickly became one of the team’s veteran leaders. The Mets acquired Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds at the nonwaiver trade deadline in 2016 as they made a push for a National League wild-card berth, but he struggled until the final weeks of that season.
The Mets brought him back for 2017, exercising his $13 million option, and Bruce was a bright spot on a team that struggled. He hit .256 with 29 home runs and 75 runs batted in over 103 games before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 9 for cash and a prospect.
Between the Indians and the Mets, Bruce finished with 36 home runs and 101 R.B.I. — the fifth time he has hit at least 30 home runs and driven in 90 runs in his 10-year career.
In a slow off-season for free agents, the Mets were always interested in re-signing Bruce, and they moved aggressively on Wednesday to complete the deal. Bruce liked the direction of the team under Mickey Callaway, their new manager. Bruce got to know Callaway during his time in Cleveland, where Callaway was the pitching coach.
Bruce’s return offers the Mets insurance on multiple fronts. Michael Conforto, perhaps the brightest light of the Mets’ disappointing 2017 season, may not be ready by opening day because of left shoulder surgery he had in September. The Mets also wanted protection at first base, where the prospect Dominic Smith had an underwhelming stint after his call-up to the majors in August.
When Conforto returns, Bruce could shift to first base from right field, or he could be part of an outfield rotation with Yoenis Cespedes in left, Conforto in center, and Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares rotating around.
Bruce will be paid $10 million in 2018, and $14.5 million in 2019 and 2020, according to one person familiar with the deal. Bruce’s deal also includes a partial no-trade clause.
Since late last season, the Mets had signaled that their payroll would go down from their team-record $155 million on opening day of the 2017 season. Earlier this off-season, General Manager Sandy Alderson confirmed that he expected the payroll to drop, which drew much criticism from fans.
The Mets signed reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14-million deal in December, but it was unclear whether they would open their wallet any more. On Wednesday, they acted decisively to bring back a proven commodity.
Published at Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:01:08 +0000