A while back when Jay Bruce’s agent made it known that he’d like to finish his career in Cincinnati, there was a brief spurt of press coverage followed by silence once Jocketty basically said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we have to.” But I kept wondering about it, and I thought it would be interesting to look at how long Bruce is likely to be a good player. In looking at extending him, we’re basically talking about his age 31-35 seasons. These are declining seasons, but that doesn’t mean an extension is a bad idea. There are other factors to consider.


Certainly, you don’t want to pay market rate for a player’s declining years if you can help it. But the Reds current option for 2017 is only for $13M. Presumably, any additional years would be in that neighborhood, which is already a discount.

Also, the last year of the proposed extension will be 10 years from now. Baseball salaries have grown by 40%, give or take, in the last ten years. So, in today’s money, paying 35-year-old Jay Bruce $13M in 2022 is likely to be roughly equivalent to an $9M salary today.

But that assumes salary inflation stays at it’s recent levels. There has been a lot of new money flowing into baseball lately, and it has been widely speculated that salaries will grow rapidly over the next several years. If that’s the case, $13M in 2022, might be equivalent to something like $7M today.

Given the likely salary inflation over the next decade, it seems fair to say that if Bruce is extended at roughly the same money for the 2018-22 seasons, he only needs to be an average player to be worth it, and maybe not even that.


This is where  we have to dust off our crystal ball and make a guess. In the interest of being totally unscientific, I have grabbed from Baseball-Reference the 10 most similar batters to Jay Bruce through age 25 and looked at their age 31-35 seasons for comparison. Let’s start at the top…

1. Reggie Jackson
How Similar Are They, Really? It’s not an unreasonable comparison. Jackson was significantly better than Bruce owing to the more offensively depressed era.
Ages 31-35: Jackson was an excellent player for four of those years, with a down year at 35.

2. Tom Brunansky
How Similar Are They, Really? Fairly. Bruce was a tick better.
Ages 31-35: A cautionary tale here. Brunansky had his last good year at 31 and played his last game at 33.

3. Jack Clark
How Similar Are They, Really? This is an interesting comparison. Clark was a better hitter than Bruce, but he was also a fragile player.
Ages 31-35: These were some of Clark’s best years. He suddenly started taking more walks and it made him into even more of a force than he had been. He was a great player during these years.

4. Darryl Strawberry
How Similar Are They, Really? Not very. Strawberry is the classic “what might have been.”
Ages 31-35: Strawberry was barely on the field. When he did play, he was solid.

5. Jeff Burroughs
How Similar Are They, Really? It’s hard to say. Burroughs had some great years and some mediocre years. I see the comparison, but it’s a strange one.
Ages 31-35: Burroughs was done after his age 34 season and didn’t play a full season after turning 27. When he did play, he was still good.

6. Willie Horton
How Similar Are They, Really? This seems like a very apt comparison to me. Horton was just a tick better when you account for the era, but the numbers are pretty similar.
Ages 31-35: Horton was probably about what you’d hope for out of Bruce during this period. He was hurt a fair bit, but when he was on the field he was very solid.

7. Adam Dunn
How Similar Are They, Really? Not very. Dunn was and is just a different hitter than Bruce.
Ages 31-35: Dunn just finished his age-32 season, and he’s looking like he might be done in a few years, but the jury is still out here.

8. Barry Bonds
How Similar Are They, Really? haha
Ages 31-35: hahahahahahaha

9. Boog Powell
How Similar Are They, Really? Powell was very up and down, but he was better than Bruce overall.
Ages 31-35: During his age-31-33 seasons, he was good enough to justify any extension Bruce would likely get, but he played his last game at 35.

10. Harold Baines
How Similar Are They, Really? Bruce strikes out more and has a bit more power, but otherwise, this is a solid offensive comparison, especially when you look only at Baines’ early years.
Ages 31-35: Baines was a late-bloomer and it’s fair to say his peak as started at 30. If Bruce hits like Baines did during this period, it would be fantastic.


Most of these players would have been worth any contract Bruce would get. However, there are a few scary performances in there. Still, giving Bruce an extension seems unlikely to seriously bite the Reds. What it really comes down to is cost certainty. It’s very possible that Bruce breaks out in the next few seasons and becomes much more expensive. You can make a case either way, but extending Bruce now shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand as it seems to have been by the Reds’ brass.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. I think we also need to keep in mind that Jay Bruce takes his off-season conditioning very seriously as well. That should lengthen his productivity.

  2. I think that unless Walt has the promise of endless funds to work with, further extending Jay should wait until next offseason. I’m not against the idea, just that I’d like to see Walt get the young pitchers extended and work on a trade to solve LF and/or 3B. If Jay is as happy as he appears to be at the thought of staying in Cincinnati, he and the Reds should be able to get an extension done before 2014.

    If Bruce breaks out with a few absolute monster seasons — a few of his typically white-hot months, but not the prolonged slumps in between — maybe the price will go up a little bit. But again, if Jay wants to stay, he and the Reds will work it out.

  3. These are what my priorities would be for the Reds.

    Extend Latos, Bailey, and potentially Cueto past his current deal.

    Sign or trade for a 3B/OF that can bat leadoff well.

    Decide what Chapman will be for the 2013 season. (Furthermore, I’d suggest that he’s a valuable trade chip [although only in a great deal])

    End of priorities.

    If the Reds decide they can’t afford anyone, whether it’s through trades or free agency, they need to work with Stubbs to figure out how to best use his tools. I’m of the opinion that he could be a good player…he just isn’t right now, even as he’s in the “prime years” of his career.

  4. Oh, and about Ludwick…

    He was great while he was with us; however, he’s 34. He started off the year in a way that drove Reds fans crazy. He wants more money than the Reds can probably afford.

    We need to be prepared to let him be free…

    I was trying to do something here, but I’ve really got nothing else.

  5. Oh, and I might as well take this time to say, “Hello.”

    I’ve been a Reds fan since ’04-05, during the Griffey and Dunn era. It was a dark time to be a fan…every day I’d wake up to headlines shouting, “Reds Losing Streak Continues.” I had no idea what “defense” was, or that there was such a thing as an “ace.” Remember the days of Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, Gary Majewski, David Weathers, and Danny Graves? In those dismal, dreary days, the Reds Front Office was a joke, being run by such “geniuses” as Jim Bowden and Wayne Krivsky. These were the times when I didn’t know what it felt to wake up in the morning actually *GASP* expecting your team to win, or actually enjoying the offseason and anticipating unanticipatable moves made by a masterful GM and company, with an owner truly committed to winning and willing to spend money to do so. (And yes, I know Castellini ran the Reds back then. He simply listens to the people he hires more now than he did then. With good reason [see: Jocketty, Walt].)

    It’s a good feeling being a Reds fan now.

  6. Jeez, 4 posts in a row… I’m either being ignored or annoying -_-.

    Anyway, possible replacement for Valdez was just signed. Emmanuel Burris(?) Burress? Anyway, had a .213/.270/.2something slash line last year in 150 plate appearances.

    He was a first round pick though, so he must’ve had some potential at one point.

    • He was a first round pick though, so he must’ve had some potential at one point.

      Yeah, Burriss was a first-round draft pick whom the Giants gave up on. How much longer should the Reds be clinging to hope with Drew Stubbs, also a first-rounder? At some point, a guy is what he is …

  7. @rhayex: Hi, just to let you know someone’s reading. I’m glad Krivsky was replaced but on the other hand, he shouldn’t be lumped in with Bowden. Krivsky had an eye for talent, for example picking up Brandon Philipps for nothing; traded away Pena for Bronson, and good draft picks. Can’t list his draft picks off hand because I confuse his with O’Brian’s, but they both emphasized scouting, player development, and began replenishing the Reds farm system.

    They started to turn the Reds around. I agree that WJ is better than either of them. The big thing though is Castellini. I jumped up and down the day he took over, and I’ve been excited about the Reds ever since.

  8. There’s a good chance that extending Jay would save the Reds money in the long run, but he’s locked up for 5 seasons forward, it’s too soon to extend him. As others have said, there are more pressing priorities, like extending Cueto and Latos.

  9. Defining trade for me of Krivsky’s career–Volquez and Herrera for Hamilton.

  10. If we do, I hold the later costs down, maybe build in incentives, as well as find a way out of it, like a buyout option, trade clause, or something.

  11. Wow—following baseball since mid-70s and saw several of these players at Riverfront, and my guess is these comparisons are based solely on avg. offensive numbers, because some of them are laughable! First of all, several of them could best be described as “lumbering” (Brunansky, Burroughs, Horton, Dunn, Powell)…comparisons are tough, and the comparisons are OK, offensively I guess, but Burroughs and Horton could hardly move by the time they were 35 (I’m sure playing on Astroturf didn’t help) due, I’m sure to some degree, to conditioning. Speaking of conditioning, that explains the Bonds issue (they test for that now) and Strawberry “conditioning” (they probably catch that in the tests, too). Jackson took pretty good care of himself (better offensively and CERTAINLY in the clutch, but inferior defensively) which kind of leaves Clark and Baines, which makes me feel a bit better about things. Add to this the fact he does seem to take advantage of the improved (legal, let’s hope) conditioning options, as well as what seems to be a professional attitude, and I’m feeling optimistic about his future as a player. HOWEVER, there are some things he still needs to work on, and I’m not sure the Reds are in the wrong taking a bit of time before offering an extension…I’d hate to lose him, though, so I wouldn’t wait too long, either.

  12. @rhayex – I’ve been reading, too! And I also agree with pinson343…Krivsky had more on the ball than Bowden – made his mistakes: traded Lohse, hired Dusty, and traded Hamilton (although by many accounts he was “told” to make the trade; and at the time we needed pitching and Volkie did OK for a while, plus he was a big part of our deal for Latos…had Hamilton still been here, he’d be walking now) and he DID do some positive things (in fact, he’s the one who obtained JH in the first place – plus, he got Phillips and Arroyo for practically nothing).
    All that being said, I agree – it’s MUCH more fun following the Reds these days, although I must admit in a way it’s more frustrating and heartbreaking when things DON’T work…but I trust Walt more than any GM in recent memory (since back in the Bill Bergesch/Murray Cook days when Marge was really calling the shots)…and I only hope he does something to improve some of our flaws (and has the power to affect things on the field)…
    As for your suggestions…I agree it would be great to extend those 3 pitchers, although you’ve gotta be careful extending pitchers too far ahead; not that it shouldn’t be considered, but since arms are so unpredictable more caution is called for than with position players. As for 3B/OF/Stubbs/Leadoff, I’ve posted for the past 2 years that Stubbs is not a major league quality hitter…he showed a lot of promise when he came up, and was on the verge of potentially being an impact player, but since then he’s collapsed disastrously…he’s never hit higher than .255 in a full season, and has averaged 180 Ks as a starter. Add to this the fact that he’s playing for a manager that bats him where his weaknesses are exploited consistently and also the fact that his performance has decreased precipitously each of the last 3 seasons, and I just don’t see us moving in a positive direction with him starting in CF, which is why, of course, I see him in our 2013 starting day lineup 🙄 , along with Scott Rolen 🙄 🙄 , with Frazier on the bench. We’ll see…

  13. I saw an article on ESPN about three breakthrough/bounce back candidates for next year. One of them was Stubbs, which got me thinking. He has all the tools needed to succeed, so what if all he needed was some confidence? And plate discipline, but that’s beside the point. Can you imagine if he could hit .275? With his defense, he’d be one of the better CFers in the league.

  14. @rhayex: Agreed, but unfortunately that reminds me of the old saying “If my aunt were a man, she’d be my uncle”…To hit .275, he’d have to hit 20 points higher than he ever has in a full season, and he has shown no drive to improve the major flaws in his game…it doesn’t seem to be his lack of confidence keeping him from becoming an effective bunter, and it seems his only response to his poor pitch selection is making a more frustrated face on his way back to the dugout. 3 years ago, I honestly was a big backer of his and hoped for great things – I think he has really suffered from poor coaching; unfortunately, Mr. Castellini seems enamored of the staff as it presently exists so I don’t see him improving although I fully expect he will be the starting CF next year and continue to be the albatross of our offense…

  15. I guess I just like to see the guys teams have oven up on (ie Josh Hamilton) succeed.

  16. Given

  17. My thought on ‘this Jay Bruce thing’ is that the Reds have already signed Jay Bruce to a long term contract, and it’s years before they need to worry about it again. That’s the neat part about a long term contract, it lasts long term without having to worry about it. I appreciate that he’s making it clear that he wants to stay but they’re years away from agreeing to an extension.

    Ryan Ludwick, he was a great bargain in 2012. A great pickup for cheap. I thought bringing him back for his $5m option would be a fair deal. I definitely don’t think he’s worth more than that to the Reds. The Reds need to add a leadoff hitter and that should be the priority. If that means Frazier or Phillips hitting cleanup again, fine. After grabbing Gomes and Ludwick off the scrap heap I expect they can find another discount option later this winter if they choose to go that route.

    @rhayex: I’m disappointed by your assessment of the Reds’ former GMs. In hindsight like him or not Wayne Krivsky did a great job with the Reds, both with drafting players and acquiring players relevant to the first place 2010 and 2012 teams. Same with Dan O’Brien, who you didn’t mention. As Pinson said they are both very different from Jim Bowden.

    What did Jim Bowden value? Five tool players and power hitters. What did O’Brien and Krivsky value? Pitching, defense, youth, and low-risk high-reward players. O’Brien took over the Reds not with the instructions to contend the following season but to rebuild an organization from the ground up, starting with rebuilding the scouting department and minor league system. That takes years to pay off, but it has. Brandon Phillips (who was basically stolen from another team) and the left fielder are the only everyday players not out of the Reds’ farm system.

    Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez. One of the most unpopular trades in Reds history, on the other hand it set a precedent and demonstrated the direction of the organization towards one prioritizing pitching and defense over hitting. I was thrilled with the move, the Reds desperately needed pitching and have constantly shown that guys like Josh Hamilton, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr, and Joey Votto can’t hit the Reds into first place with a pitching staff of career minor leaguers. Also it’s worth recognizing that Josh Hamilton was taken in the rule 5 draft, the Reds basically snatched him for nothing and traded him to fill a far more pressing need – pitching! Would trading Josh Hamilton for a pitcher make sense today? No, but it did make sense when the Reds were stocked with hitters and desperately needing pitchers. Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez, Alonso-Grandal-Volquez-Boxberger for Latos, Wily Mo Pena for Arroyo, each trade was questioned by fans but each has contributed to the Reds’ success in 2010 and 2012.

    The Reds also value clubhouse chemistry and try to avoid distractions. That includes Josh Hamilton, the heroic former drug addict who gets lots of special attention and special treatment because of his history in addition to lots of questions about his health. The Reds have made a point to add players who they believe to be good influences, such as Rolen and Ludwick. Last spring the Reds traded away Juan Francisco after he arrived to spring training overweight and out of shape because such behavior was unacceptable for a Reds player. Unlike the Bengals the Reds try to avoid players who set a bad example, cause distractions, or cause controversy. I was thrilled when Josh Hamilton was traded to improve the pitching staff.

    Drew Stubbs, I think his biggest problem has always been the Reds’ inability to find a leadoff hitter and need to turn to him for that role by default. That’s not bad managing, it’s a failure by the front office to provide a well rounded roster. I think his most important offensive number is his OBP, not his batting average. He’s shown an ability to take walks. If he gets his OBP to .330+ I wouldn’t care what kind of batting average that meant – his priority should be to reach base and use his speed. After being a finalist for a Gold Glove award I expect Drew Stubbs to return, I don’t think he’s ever been the albatross (the bench players were in 2012, at least until Xavier Paul and Dioner Navarro arrived) of the Reds’ offense but he continues to be the target of all blame, only more-so now that Bruce may have made himself somewhat immune to criticism and Rolen and Cairo are leaving. SOMEBODY has to be blamed for the games that are lost and all the other candidates for criticism are disappearing.

    Hopefully the Reds can add a leadoff hitter. After that Phillips can compete with Frazier for the cleanup spot and Phillips can compete with Cozart and Stubbs for the #2 spot, perhaps with Cozart and Stubbs both moving to the bottom of the lineup. Cozart, Stubbs, and Phillips could all be placed into an ideal role rather than set up to fail in a role that they weren’t suited to fill.

  18. The main problem I have with the Krivsky era is the JHam trade. I fully understand the reasons behind it (attitude, relapse risk, clubhouse, etc.); however, Volquez had warning flags around him prior to his acquisition by the Reds. I wouldn’t have had a problem with the trade if the Reds had acquired a truely ace caliber pitcher (something Volquez is not; he is simply a power pitcher). My point was not to put Krivsky or any of the other GMs down; it was simply to explain the feelings I hold to the current GM and co. as opposed to the former regime that were in charge when I first became a Reds fan.

    I’m not making a judgement towards anyone; if I am, it is simply the personal judgement of a fan; the freedom to question decisions even as we cheer for our team. This is all I wanted to say.

  19. Jason,

    You broke down the Jay Bruce extension debate from a historical and future worth perspective. I think this was a phenomenal read, but I might suggest another way to value Jay Bruce’s time in a Red’s uniform: marketing value. Jay Bruce is currently signed through 2016 with the option you mentioned in your article for 2017. That would put him at 31 years old. In each of his years in the big leagues, he has steadily improved his play, but more importantly, he has become a genuine face of the franchise.

    Many look at Joey Votto (and rightfully so) as the face of the franchise. However, my argument is that Jay can be just as valuable as Joey in the community. The Cincinnati Reds have done a good job to this point of leveraging their good young talent into revenue at the ballpark. If Jay were to be re-signed for 5 more years (or until he was 36), than the Reds would have two star players to market around for the future. It is proven that fans will support their teams if they know who they are and are familiar with them year in and year out. Why were the Reds so successful in the 70s at bringing in revenue? They had talent on the field that was consistent from one year to the next. Walt Jocketty is doing the same and the fan base has responded.

    So while Jay has a significant value to the team on the field, I believe the money he can generate in marketing the Reds and the revenue brought in from such marketing (as long as he is paired with a sensible campaign) will lead to a decade of marketing and revenue success for the Cincinnati Reds.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.


2013 Reds