Why on earth would the Blue Jays be interested in Jay Bruce?
That’s the question many found themselves asking on Monday night as rumours of a trade involving Jay Bruce and Michael Saunders began to develop. The Blue Jays already have a few candidates to play left field; Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey among the front-runners.
What would motivate the Blue Jays to trade for a player who can hit home runs, but also strikes out quite a bit and isn’t much of a defensive wizard in the outfield? Not only that, but why would the Jays pick up Jay Bruce’s $12.5 million salary in 2016 and potentially a $13 million dollar option in 2017?
After taking some time to think about it, I talked myself into any potential trade sending Saunders to the Angels and bringing Bruce to the Blue Jays. And then the trade talks completely unraveled and we’re left wondering how and why it almost materialized.
Here’s why the Blue Jays targeted Jay Bruce in the first place; Michael Saunders may have the potential to be a very good left fielder, but none of it matters if he can’t stay on the field. It may be a very underrated tool, but health is certainly a skill.
Michael Saunders games missed since 2013: 244
Michael Saunders games played since 2013: 219
Jay Bruce games missed since 2013: 14
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) February 23, 2016
With many questions still surrounding Michael Saunders’ health and Dalton Pompey’s ability to be an everyday outfielder, the Blue Jays lacked a true companion in the outfield for Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar. If this trade transpired as many thought it was going to, Jay Bruce would’ve fit that bill.
He may not fit in as a leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays, but Jay Bruce can provide a bit of power further down the lineup and potentially make the Blue Jays’ batting order that much more lethal.
Bruce’s price tag is considerably higher than Saunders’, but at $12.5 million, that’s pretty manageable for one or perhaps even two seasons. If you pay a guy $10 million dollars more a season to play 150 more games, then in my mind, it’s worth it; even if Bruce only provides replacement level production.
The other thing about a trade for Jay Bruce is it provides a bit if a cushion in case Jose Bautista leaves at the end of this year. The Blue Jays could exercise a $13 million dollar club option on Jay Bruce and thus have him occupy an outfield spot vacated by Bautista.
When it comes to the Saunders vs. Bruce debate, all we can really go on is their track record. When healthy, Michael Saunders has been an impact left-handed bat with the potential to be a 20/20 guy. But he hasn’t been.
Jay Bruce on the other hand, is not a complicated specimen; he hits home runs and he strikes out. But he’s done that with regularity for the past eight seasons running. And if Brook Jacoby feels like he can rekindle some of Bruce’s magic from Cincinnati, then Jay Bruce’s upside could be even higher.
Here’s what it boils down to for me; Jay Bruce is a good player, not a great player. Michael Saunders could be a good player, but has only shown flashes of that. The Blue Jays still aren’t quite sure whether Dalton Pompey is ready to play everyday. So that’s why they targeted Jay Bruce.