Wednesday night saw the New York Mets bring back a familiar face as they signed outfielder Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million contract to break the deafening silence that was Major League Baseball's free agent market.
The market had screeched to a halt in the last week or so despite a number of big-name free agents still looking for a new home. Bruce's signing could spark things back into motion as we are just about one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
Bruce's acquisition is the Mets' first big move from nabbing reliever Anthony Swarzak during the Winter Meetings last month, making this is a promising move for a team that still has plenty of holes to fill.
It certainly pleased ace Noah Syndergaard:
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— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) January 11, 2018
The 30-year-old Bruce spent 153 games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians this past August. He was one of New York's most productive bats during that stretch, slugging 37 home runs and driving in 94 runs in what is the equivalent to almost a full season of play in blue and orange.
That kind of power returning to the lineup looks like a relatively good bargain for an average annual salary of $13 million.
Bringing back Bruce though will likely result in the Mets shuffling their outfield just a bit. The right fielder would usurp youngster Michael Conforto, who continues to recover from a dislocated shoulder, from the corner spot and shift him to center field, which doesn't necessarily give the Mets the most optimal defensive outfit with Yoenis Cespedes remaining in left. If Conforto is not ready for the start of the 2018 season, Juan Lagares, one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, would patrol the territory in front of the Home Run Apple at Citi Field.
Defense aside, Bruce brings a much-needed power bat to the middle of the Mets lineup to provide support for Cespedes and Conforto, who was developing into an offensive star before his injury. In 109 games last year he smacked 27 home runs with a .384 on-base percentage.
Bruce also gives the Mets another option at first base, which apparently is needed given their insecurities surrounding youngster Dominic Smith. New York's former No. 2 prospect behind Amed Rosario failed to impress during a brief six-week stint in the majors toward the end of the season. The returning Bruce played 11 games at first base last season and could cycle in at the position should Smith struggle or if the Mets want to feature Juan Lagares more.
In no way should the Mets be done this offseason, though. There are still glaring holes at either second or third base, though the team has been linked with third basemen Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas along with second baseman Neil Walker. If the Mets are able to sign one of those targets, Asdrubal Cabrera would fill in at the other position.
The Mets were also rumored to be discussing a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for center fielder for Andrew McCutchen, but the signing of Bruce would likely end any hopes of that trade coming to fruition.