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Rays Trade Target: Jay Bruce, New York Mets

To contend in 2017, Rays should trade trade Smyly for Bruce. Both teams will benefit.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Rays’ interest in dealing from their surplus of pitching has been frequented stated this off season with Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, and Drew Smyly at the forefront of discussions. However, even after agreeing to terms with oft-injured catcher Wilson Ramos earlier this week, the Tampa Bay’s offense remains a major uncertainty. As it can be expensive to buy runs through free agency, trading pitching for offense is still, most likely, high on the Rays to-do list.

Smyly would seem like a top trade candidate. The 27-year-old suffered his worst full season as a starter in 2016, going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 175.1 innings. Also, with an injury-laden 2015 not too far behind him, Smyly is no sure thing to replicate his half season worth of success from 2014.

While this may seem like the sort of “sell-low situation” the Rays usually try to avoid, Smyly still has considerable trade value. He still strikes out nearly one batter per inning while limiting walks. He also comes with three years of team control; 2017 will be his second year of arbitration eligibility and he will not hit free agency until 2019 at the earliest.

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently noted that Smyly and right-hander Jake Odorizzi have drawn the most interest; the asking price on Archer is high and Cobb is still not fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

While Smyly has enjoyed success starting, he began his career as an effective reliever. Pitching out of the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen in 2013, the lefty held opposing batters to a .219/.265/.336 slash line. Left-handed batters especially struggled, mustering a .189/.225/.246 line.

The New York Mets have are known to be in the market for bullpen help and Smyly’s history as an effective reliever is enticing.


After re-signing Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have a logjam in the outfield. With Cespedes the full-time left fielder, that leaves Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, and possibly Juan Lagares for two outfield spots. Marc Carig of Newsday reported that the Mets are getting more interest in Granderson than Bruce but prefer to move the latter.

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Bruce, 30, was the National League leader in homers when he was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Mets at the trade deadline. However, he struggled for most of his two-month stint in Queens, slashing a meager .219/.294/.391 with eight homers and 19 RBIs. However, Bruce did finish with 33 HRs and 99 RBIs, his sixth season with at least 25 HRs and 70 RBIs.

The Mets picked up Bruce’s $13 million option for 2017, insurance just in case Cespedes signed elsewhere and, in general, to give the team a strong offensive option.

Bruce would give the Rays a potent bat to pair with Longoria and Dickerson in the heart of the lineup. Plus, he would only be a one-year commitment as he will hit free agency after next season.

Where does he fit?

As the current 25-man roster is currently constructed, this is the Rays lineup — with their 2016 numbers included — we’d likely see if Opening Day was tomorrow.

  1. Logan Forsythe, 2B (.264/.333/.778, 20 HRs, 52 RBIs)
  2. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.246/.331/.741, 12 HRs, 37 RBIs)
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B (.273/.318/.840, 36 HRs, 98 RBIs)
  4. Corey Dickerson, DH (.245/.293/.469, 24 HRs, 70 RBIs)
  5. Brad Miller, 1B (.243/.304/.786, 30 HRs, 81 RBIs)
  6. Steven Souza Jr., RF (.247/.303/.713, 17 HRs, 49 RBIs)
  7. Matt Duffy, SS (.258/.310/.668, 5 HRs, 28 RBIs)
  8. Nick Franklin, LF (.270/.328/.771, 6 HRs, 26 RBIs)
  9. Curt Casali, C (.186/.273/.609. 8 HRs, 25 RBIs)

That lineup brings a lot of home runs; Forsythe, Longoria, Dickerson, and Miller alone accounted for over half of the Rays’ 216 home runs last season. Those 216 homers were the most in Rays history and the first time the team hit 200+ in a season (they hit 199 HRs in 2009).

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

It’s good for instant offense but not overall hitting. The Rays ranked dead last in the American League in team batting average (.243) and second-to-last in on-base percentage (.307) in 2016. Adding Bruce may be redundant as he’s a low-OBP, high-strikeout hitter with power — similar to half the Rays’ current lineup.

It’s clear that the team will power-heavy in 2017, so adding more firepower to their lineup makes sense. With Ramos expected back from injury in June, this what a Rays lineup with Bruce and Ramos would likely resemble.

  1. Logan Forsythe, 2B (.264/.333/.778, 20 HRs, 52 RBIs)
  2. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.246/.331/.741, 12 HRs, 37 RBIs)
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B (.273/.318/.840, 36 HRs, 98 RBIs)
  4. Jay Bruce, RF (.250/.309/.506, 33 HRs, 99 RBIs)
  5. Wilson Ramos, C (.307/.354/.496. 22 HRs, 80 RBIs)
  6. Corey Dickerson, DH (.245/.293/.469, 24 HRs, 70 RBIs)
  7. Brad Miller, 1B (.243/.304/.786, 30 HRs, 81 RBIs)
  8. Steven Souza Jr., LF (.247/.303/.713, 17 HRs, 49 RBIs)
  9. Matt Duffy, SS (.258/.310/.668, 5 HRs, 28 RBIs)

Topkin reported yesterday that the Rays have made some traction in regards to trading one of their pitchers. He also added that the team is looking to add an “outfielder/DH type” power bat to their lineup.

Bruce fits that mold, but he would have to approve a trade as the Rays, along with seven other teams (Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, A’s, Twins.) are listed on his limited no-trade clause.

The Trade

Bruce’s $13 million price tag is high for the Rays, so to facilitate a deal, the Mets will have to eat a sizeable portion. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Smyly is projected to earn $6.9 million in arbitration next season. Therefore, a $6.1 million difference remains between the salaries.

The Mets could throw in decent prospect in exchange for Tampa Bay paying off the rest of Bruce’s salary. From the Mets’ Top 30 prospects ranked by, RHP Gabriel Ynoa (No. 18), C Ali Sanchez (No.21), and 3B Eudor Garcia could be of interest to the Rays.

Minnesota Twins v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Developing young pitching has been the franchise’s calling card and somebody like Ynoa — or even Robert Gsellman, who went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in seven starts last season and is under team control through 2023 — could match up for a trade.

While the Mets’ equally imposing rotation is expected healthy in 2017, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler all enter the season with injury questions. Smyly not only gives them rotation insurance — something they lost when Bartolo Colon departed for the Atlanta Braves — but a potential left-handed bullpen piece as last year’s lefty specialist, Jerry Blevins, seems in line for a multi-year deal.

The Rays can always go the free agency route and ink somebody like Jose Bautista, but he may be out of their price range. In completing such a trade, they can trade from a surplus to bolster their offense, potentially add a prospect, and contend in 2017. For the Mets, they got a versatile left-handed arm with team control. A win-win for both.