It's hard to remember now, but Jay Bruce looked like a nifty addition last August when the New York Mets freed him from the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, he had a 126 OPS+ and 25 home runs. Bruce then faltered during his 50-game run in New York, finishing the year with a 112 OPS+ and 33 home runs.
As a result, Bruce has spent the winter being dangled in trade rumors -- especially since Yoenis Cespedes decided to return once more to the Mets. Yet Tuesday brought with it a revelation: Bruce has been told he will enter the season as the Mets' everyday right fielder, according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post:
The Mets have notified Bruce they anticipate starting the season with him as their everyday right fielder, an industry source told The Post.
The most important takeaway here is probably not what it means for Bruce -- who, it should be noted, ought to be platooned against left-handed pitchers -- but what it means for the Mets and young outfielder Michael Conforto.
As Davidoff outlines, the Mets had hoped to trade Bruce and use the salary relief to land a reliever. Ostensibly, the Mets will now go without the arm.
Conforto, meanwhile, finds himself in an awkward position -- trapped behind a pair of left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, in Bruce and Granderson. Conforto followed up a brilliant rookie run in 2015 -- he hit .270/.335/.506 -- by batting .220/.310/.414 and spending time in the minors. Barring an injury, that's where he's likely to begin the 2017 season.
Bruce, by the way, is entering his walk year, meaning he's the real winner here. A bounce-back season could net him a multiyear deal next winter.