Posted on August 10, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Facing a depleted outfield at the moment, the Cleveland Indians have upgraded in a big way. Late Wednesday night, the Indians acquired slugger Jay Bruce from the New York Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan. Cleveland has agreed to take on the roughly $4 million left on Bruce’s salary this season. But in the long run, that may be a small price to pay to acquire the most impactful player available in an August waiver trade.
Bruce is in the midst of arguably the best season of his career. He’s already hit 29 home runs and has a chance to break his career-high of 34. On the season, he’s hitting .256 with an OPS of .841. He’s also done a good job of avoiding the kind of prolonged slumps that have plagued him in the past.
The trade comes one day after the Indians placed left fielder Michael Brantley on the DL with a sprained ankle. It’s considered a minor injury, but it’s the second time this year the injury-plagued Brantley has gone to the DL with a sprained ankle. Cleveland is also playing without Lonnie Chisenhall, who has missed close to a month with a calf injury. There’s currently no timeline for his return.
“Obviously, if both Michael and Lonnie are healthy and unrestricted at this point, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for a player like Jay,” explains Indians president Chris Antonetti. “But, with Lonnie still at least a little ways off from being able to get out on a rehab assignment and get back to the active roster, and Michael sustaining the injury the other day, now we felt that bringing in Jay will help us while those guys are out.”
With Brantley and Chisenhall out, rookie Bradley Zimmer is the only steady presence in Cleveland’s outfield at the moment. For the time being, Bruce will step in as Cleveland’s every day right fielder, while Austin Jackson, Brandon Guyer, and Abraham Almonte share left field. Things could get crowded in Cleveland’s outfield when both Brantley and Chisenhall return. That would also give the Indians four left-hand hitting outfielders. However, it will also give the Indians a strong and formidable outfield for their playoff push.
As for the Mets, they save $4 million by having the Indians take on Bruce’s entire salary. But they don’t get much in terms of prospects by trading him in the middle of August. Ryan is not considered much of a prospect. However, he does have some upside, as he was primarily a position player in college before becoming a pitcher as a pro.
By trading Bruce now, the Mets also lose the option of offering Bruce a qualifying offer after the season. There was some speculation that the Mets may want to re-sign Bruce or welcome him back for another year with a qualifying offer. However, trading him now all but eliminates the possibility of Bruce being in New York next season. That likely means Michael Conforto will take over full time in right field next season.
Of course, the Indians adding Bruce for the stretch run is the most important part of this trade. Cleveland still has to hold off the Royals and Twins to win the AL Central. The Indians also figure to face tough challenges in the postseason and will need a productive outfield if they hope to return to the World Series. Bruce has been one of the most consistent players in baseball this year. He provides an immediate lift to the Indians, especially with Brantley and Chisenhall on the DL.