Mets need more than Jay Bruce to get back into contention

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8171/" data-ylk="slk:Jay Bruce">Jay Bruce</a> is hoping to spark a Mets turnaround in 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Jay Bruce is hoping to spark a Mets turnaround in 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

In an offseason where player movement has been unusually slow, credit the New York Mets with finally taking the plunge and breaking the free-agent logjam. The team made one of the biggest moves of the offseason Wednesday, bringing back outfielder Jay Bruce on a three-year, $39 million deal. 

On the surface, the move is fine. After a few tough years at the plate, the 30-year-old Bruce rebounded in a big way in 2017. He hit .254/.324/.508, with 36 home runs, over 617 plate appearances. As long as he doesn’t fall back into his sub-.300 on-base percentage ways, Bruce should provide enough pop at the plate to justify $13 million per year. He’s also, by all accounts, a likable guy in the clubhouse, and that has value.

There’s no doubt Bruce gives the Mets an upgrade in the outfield. The bigger question is whether spending nearly $40 million on Bruce drastically increased the Mets’ chances at making the postseason in 2018?

A first blush, it’s tough to take that angle. The Mets won just 70 games in 2017, and Bruce has been their only significant addition this offseason. Even if Bruce repeats last year’s numbers, his presence doesn’t suddenly make the Mets a 90-win team.

While it’s true that the Mets are hoping for internal improvements to carry that load, the team would need a lot to go right to make that a reality. Noah Syndergaard might be fine after missing most of last season with an injury, but both Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are coming off questionable, injury-riddled seasons. Depending on either to return to form and become aces immediately seems foolish. Both had ERAs north of 5.00 in 2017.

There are plenty of questions offensively too. Bruce needs to prove his bounce back was for real. Michael Conforto is coming off a brutal shoulder injury after a breakout year. The only player you can count on to produce with certainty is Yoenis Cespedes. Prepare to be shocked, but he’s also coming off an injury-riddled season.

The one area where the Mets could see huge improvements is with Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith. Both struggled mightily in 2017, but were considered strong prospects coming into the year. If the Mets are depending on their improvements to come internally, Rosario and Smith are the most likely candidates to make that leap.

The Bruce signing complicates that a bit. The Mets apparently want Bruce to play some first base next season. Smith’s development should be a key focus for the Mets in 2018, so they’ll need to make sure using Bruce at the position doesn’t significantly impact Smith’s playing time.

Considering the state of the team, the Bruce signing looks more like a move that helps the Mets inch closer to 75 wins as opposed to a wild card spot. The only way the signing makes sense is if the team is planning to make another big splash or two.

While there’s still enough talent on the market to make that a possibility, this is the Mets we’re talking about. The team has made it clear they intend to cut payroll in 2018.

Unless the Bruce signing signals a drastic change in approach for the franchise, there’s probably not another big move coming.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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