Free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the New York Mets on Wednesday night, marking a return to Queens for one of the most consistent left-handed power hitters, a source familiar with the agreement told Yahoo Sports.
The 30-year-old Bruce, ranked 10th in Yahoo Sports’ Ultimate Free Agent Tracker, has hit at least 20 home runs in nine of his 10 major league seasons and last year hit a career-best 36. Though power spiked across the game the last 2½ seasons, the Mets still thought enough of Bruce’s pedigree to guarantee him three years. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.
The move is not without risk. Bruce’s glove in right field, long a matter of disagreement between scouts and defensive metrics, is unlikely to improve as he ages. And never has he posted a particularly high batting average or on-base percentage, hitting .249 and getting on at a .319 clip for his career.
Bruce’s allure comes from his pop and presence. Over the last decade, only Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have hit more home runs than Bruce’s 277. After spending the first 8½ seasons of his career in Cincinnati, Bruce went through a rough two months with the Mets, followed it with an excellent first half in 2017 and made an impact down the stretch for the Cleveland Indians following a trade from New York.
In Cleveland, teammates raved about Bruce’s impact in the clubhouse, an unquantifiable intangible that is nonetheless valued throughout the game. It wasn’t just his calmness at the plate, which was evident when Bruce walloped the walk-off hit for Cleveland’s 22nd consecutive victory during a record streak over the summer. The Indians were impressed with Bruce’s dedication to his hometown of Beaumont, Texas, which after being ravaged by Hurricane Harvey needed significant repair. Bruce helped raise more than $200,000 to help victims.
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