The Mets struck gold when they acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline last season, as he hit 17 home runs in his first 41 games as a Met and jump-started New York’s lackluster offense. Lightning has not struck twice as Jay Bruce, the former Cincinnati Red, has hit a paltry .181 with only four home runs and 11 RBI in 38 games in a Mets uniform. A similar tailspin earned Michael Conforto a demotion earlier this year, but Terry Collins says Bruce won’t be going anywhere.
“He’s got to battle through it,” Collins said of Bruce when addressing reporters recently. “I’ve talked to him at length about it, and one of the things he’s done throughout his career is play through things. He’s never been a guy who has sat very much.”
Bruce himself has been insistent on attempting to wrestle through his prolonged slump by playing every day.
“I think every year players go through something whether it’s physical or mental,” Bruce told reporters recently. “They go through slumps, go through skids, and it’s always something different.”
He later added, “I’m someone who kind of hangs my hat on coming in every single day, preparing the same way and…playing pretty much every day. [Collins] asked me and I just told him…I didn’t need a break here or there or whatever. I’m confident in my ability to get out of funks and just keep going forward. But I also told him I completely understand that he has to put a lineup [together] that he feels gives us the best chance to win. But I also feel like I’m one of the best nine options.”
The validity of Bruce’s last statement has to be called into question as Alejandro de Aza, who’s improved demonstrably after a painfully slow start (his OPS is .738 after the All-Star break compared to .521 before it), continues to ride the bench. Juan Lagares, who unexpectedly returned from the DL last Friday, now adds to the list of outfielders behind Bruce on the depth chart as Bruce continues to appear in the starting lineup.
Bruce’s poor play has led to speculation that the Mets will not pick up his $13 million option for next season, something that was considered a sure thing when they brought in the then-leader in RBIs in the National League.
The most frustrating part of this ordeal is that Johnathan Lucroy, the All-Star catcher the Mets were pursing but ultimately passed on near the deadline, is tearing the cover off the ball in Texas.
Since leaving Milwaukee, Lucroy has 10 home runs and 28 RBIs to go with a .289 batting average in 37 games as a Ranger. He would’ve been a great upgrade at catcher over Travis d’Arnaud, who’s batting .250 in 68 games this year with just four home runs. D’Arnaud’s also been a defensive liability, which has forced the Mets to start Rene Rivera more often than they’d like.
The Mets will have to hope Bruce can turn things around before the playoffs, or the season could come to an unsatisfying end.