Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier have all been sent packing in service to the cause of rebuild-reboot-recycle. Depending on how you look at it, add Marlon Byrd, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon to the discard pile. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips remain as significant players that could offer the club a positive return.

By virtue of his longevity with the Reds, Phillips has earned the right to refuse any trade. The second baseman apparently exercised it a few weeks ago after the Reds had negotiated a deal with the Washington Nationals. Phillips was looking for an extension to approve the deal, but the Nationals weren’t that interested.

That leaves Jay Bruce. The Reds right fielder turns 29 just before Opening Day. He’s coming off a complicated season that ended with a horrible two-month nosedive.

But, for 66 games – more than 40 percent of the season – Jay Bruce hit like an MVP in 2015. His line of .306/.374/.567 in that period produced a wRC+ of 151. Only three players in the National League had better run production in 2015. Same with Bruce’s isolated power (ISO) during that stretch.

Jay Bruce has an 8-team no-trade clause (Yankees, Red Sox, A’s, Rays, Marlins, Twins, Cleveland and Arizona) in his contract. He is owed $12.5 million in 2016 and has a $13 million club option for 2017.

To provide context for those numbers, teams are paying about $8 million per WAR in the free market this season. So for Bruce to be worth his contract, he’d have to produce 1.5 WAR in 2016. From 2010-2013, Bruce produced 3.5 WAR per year.

Potential trade partners have to figure out what the likelihood is that Bruce can put together another year like 2010-2013, when year-after-year he produced runs at a rate 20 percent above league average.

Bruce’s name has appeared in trade speculation for more than a year. According to press reports, the Reds were close to moving him to the New York Mets last July. There are plenty of fits for Bruce on other teams, particularly with the Los Angeles Angels.

But how urgent is it for the Reds to trade Jay Bruce?

Not very.

Financial circumstances no longer compel it. The Reds have a large payroll surplus already. It’s not like Bruce is blocking meaningful playing time for young players. The club barely has major league names to write down in left field. Billy Hamilton returns from shoulder surgery.

Unless the Reds get a great offer they should wait to trade Jay Bruce.

As Nick Carrington pointed out, if the skimpy returns for Todd Frazier are any indication, it seems unlikely the Reds will receive a can’t-refuse deal for Bruce. To make matters worse, a glut of outfielders in the free agent and rumored trade market is depressing the potential return. And Bruce’s late-season swoon has raised the risk level for suitors.

We’re not supposed to care about the 2016 team. But if the club is concerned about ticket sales and television ratings, they might want to hold on to Bruce for a while. The 2016 Reds need power. Only 14 players in the NL hit more than 26 home runs last year (Votto and Frazier were two of them). Only 13 players in the NL had a higher ISO than Bruce.

The Reds should see how Jay Bruce hits in April and May. If Bruce gets off to a fast start, it will rebuild his trade value. At that point, a trade partner would still control Bruce for 1.5 years, if they pick up his option.

It would be a big mistake for the Reds to sell low on Jay Bruce for the sake of clubhouse change or out of frustration with his inconsistency.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. Contemporary Reds thrills: witnessing Jay Bruce’s 2010 homer and Homer Bailey’s 2013 no-hitter in person. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 280 characters about the Reds is Redleg Nation, although you can follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 100 Comments

  1. Of course, if JB is injured, we can pillory the FO. it’s a wine-win!

  2. Agreed! Bruce is still fairly young and has an upside–he can bounce back. We also need some power in the lineup, and Bruce may be our only big bat. Someone on the team has to drive in runs. And he still can field his position.

    Keep him. If fans can get over the negativity, he’s a good fit–with no one nearly as good at all ready to replace him. There is no need to rush to a trade here.

    Can someone just teach him to bunt on occasion, to counter the exaggerated shift so he will face it less often?

    • How about instead of bunting, he simply learn to be pro hitter and hit it to all fields? Even little leaguers can learn to hit an outside pitch to opposite field on a line. I did that with little strain. Granted I didn’t have Bruce’s power, but I was a better hitter, I can guarantee that. I was NOT an easy out. Maybe Bruce wasn’t in little league either, but he sure is in MLB trying to pull 400 ft homers every at bat. Shameful.

      • A better hitter than Bruce? For all of his perceived faults, you might be surprised if you and Jay took turns facing the same mlb pitching.

      • Aside from the fact that hitting MLB pitching is about the hardest thing to do in professional sports, how can you guarantee that you were a better hitter than Jay Bruce? I can’t recall any Michael E’s winning batting titles. I don’t mean this as offense to you, but even on your best day and with the luck of the most recent Powerball winners, you wouldn’t be able to line an outside pitch the otherway against an MLB pitcher. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just putting things in perspective. I know we’re all entitle to our opinions but let’s try to inject some objectivity and thought into them.

        • I agree. I’ve mentioned it before but every MLB hitter hits to all parts of the park in BP. It’s just part of what they do. If you watch Bruce take batting practice, he does it. He even hits quite a few out to LCF and CF. It’s during the game against live pitching that is difficult. Against MLB pitching? The task has to be monumental.

      • Geez, you two are making me shake my head. Really? Where, anywhere did I say I would be a better MLB hitter? Hello? Focus people…FOCUS.

  3. Snow blankets Redsland with bone-chilly temperatures our already low baseball spirits across Redsland for 2016. Five weeks + until pitchers and catchers report.

    Pitchers and catchers reporting has much more significance for the Reds this season. The competition for starting and bullpen arms should be intense. This will lay the foundation for the next decade. How close is Bailey in his recovery and rehab? Then there’s the Mesoraco factor hanging over the team. All reports have indicate that Mesoraco should be ready to go behind the dish, but I think fans, the team and Mesoraco need to see the proof on the field. Will Mesoraco’s bat return in full attack mode?

    The Old Cossack is ready for this miserable (again…) offseason to be over and news reports from Arizona to start rolling in. Two hours shovelling the darn snow yesterday and more coming tonight. Ugh!!!

  4. I agree with your assessment.
    I’m glad you mentioned the LA Angels. I think the Reds 3B for 2016 and 2017 is on the Angels roster but is blocked by the recently acquired Yunel Escobar. I keep calling for Kyle Kubitza. Not great power, but had 55 XBH in something like 117 games in 2015. Angels have another highly regarded 3B prospect that can replace Escobar down the road.
    However, I’d like to keep Bruce for the re-building process. Or at the very least, as you suggest, keep him through July and assess his value at the trade deadline.
    I would rather like to move BP, some cash, and a pitching prospect to LAA for the 3B.
    Angels are still searching for a 2B, and maybe they can offer up that extra year to BP to entice the trade. That is why some cash would have to go in the trade.

    • Getting Kubitza now would allow the Reds to get Jagiello some playing time in LF at AA and AAA. If Jagiello’s defense and footwork are as suspect at 3B as some say, then getting him some time in LF in the minors now might be beneficial.

      • My understanding is that a lot of Jagielo’s issues at 3B have to do with range and well-below average speed. Due to this I’ve read several scouts site that the OF isn’t an option. I don’t think LF is an option for him, regardless because the Reds have better options already in Winker, Rodriguez, Shebler, and likely even Duvall. He either needs to figure out how to play passable defense at 3B or he’s a 1B/DH.

        • His arm is also suspect, which even in LF could be problematic.

        • With suspect speed and arm, what are his positives? Why do we keep trading for marginal prospects with limitations?

        • Dewey, because we have old, tired GM that just gets fatigued and says “sure, whatever, that’s good enough, lets just finish this so I can sleep” when bargaining for a top prospect.

    • Assuming that BP would take the deal, why would the Angels? Why would they trade a guy that has cheap upside for a guy that could be finished after this year? Also, the Reds have a “theoretical” abundance of pitching. History tells us that at least a few of those guys will be bust or get hurt. For the next 2 years, the Reds need to figure out who can pitch and who cant.

      • The Angels acquired Andrelton Simmons for SS and Yunel Escobar for 3B in trades this winter. They figure to be in an “all-in” mode. Maybe LAA can be enticed by having BP at 2B. What a defense up the middle with BP, Simmons and some guy named Trout in CF. The best defensive SS, the best defensive 2B, and the best CF in the game. That is why LAA might be interested. Pujols isn’t getting any younger. It is an all-in year in Anaheim. Maybe LAA does something that Walt Jocketty failed miserably at in 2012 and 2013, taking full advantage of the short window of opportunity you have.

        • Unless the Angels want to write BP a large check and contract extension he is staying in Cincinnati.

    • Yunel Escobar will block no one. He is mediocrity on his best day.

      • He’s got 21 career WAR… being a “mediocre” every day regular isn’t an insult.

      • Angels think differently than you. A .314/.375/.415 line might be “mediocre” in your book. They gave up a young hard throwing (96mph) reliever for him too. They gave up a 23 year old reliever for a 33 year old SS/3B. They could do it again for BP.
        Arte Moreno has his checkbook out for BP. Here comes the Ready for Primetime, DatDudeLA.

      • I stand by my statement. If there is a good prospect at a position he plays, Escobar will NOT block that prospect.

      • “There are no ZiPS projections for the Angels yet, but there are Steamer projections. Those see Escobar regressing to hit .266 and generally returning to his status as a subpar regular. ”

        “A huge spike in Escobar’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) accounted for his high average. That alone sets off flashing red lights, and they only get flashier as you dig deeper. Escobar didn’t hit the ball any harder than usual, and he got away with an elevated ground-ball rate by blowing away his career norm with a .268 BABIP on grounders.”

        “But Escobar may not pull his weight even if he hits .314 again. His defense has become a problem, as well-below-average defense at shortstop in 2014 ended up translating into well-below-average defense at third base in 2015. Thanks to that, he was nowhere near the top of the third base totem pole.”

        The above from a fangraphs post about the All-Bust team from offseason moves…Escobar wins all-bust at 3rd base (and for darn good reason..he IS a bust of player).

        Escobar will NOT block any half-decent prospect…mediocre players aren’t blocking material.

  5. Agree 100%. I was never on the trade Bruce train anyway. I think he can bounce back and be an all-star again.

    • Maybe, but if he is slump, slump, mash, slump, slump in 2016, will you FINALLY be on board with sending him elsewhere?

      I might be on here having to apologize to Bruce come September, for a consistent that sees him put it all together, solid power and solid BA my main focus. I would feel very comfortable betting against that though, given Bruce’s slow fade into replacement level slugger that has one good month, two terrible months and two average (at best) months.

  6. If they trade him now, wouldn’t that help them in signing another IFA or two? My understanding is that we won’t be able to do so after July 2. At this point, I don’t see a good reason to hang on to Bruce or Bailey. As soon as Bailey proves to be healthy, we should trade him to a team that has emerged as a contender during the summer. The only question, in my mind, is whether we should hold on to Votto, Will we have a winner built while he is still awesome?

    • coco codero anyone?

    • They can still sign INTL FAs, but they won’t be able to offer any kind of enticing bonus ($300k limit) so that means only far-flung, or low upside INTL FAs. No difference makers, barring some miracle scouting find in the most poverty stricken area on the planet (where $300k makes you richer than anyone around by 10 fold)

  7. Jay Bruce is simply the next Adam Dunn. Obviously, not willing to make the adjustments and do the hard work to be a productive hitter. He is one of the worst hitters in MLB with RISP. He embodies most of most of what has gone wrong with this organization.

    • Let’s assume hitting with RISP is a separate skill (which it isn’t): Bruce’s OPS (.777) is higher with RISP than when there are no RISP. That is also about 50 points higher than league average with RISP over the past 6 years. So he’s not “one of the worst hitters in MLB with RISP” he’s actually one of the best. Based on the numbers.

      • Numbers. Bah. Narrative! It’s all about narrative!

      • Nevermind the fact that he is a much better outfielder defensively than Dunn ever was. Then there is the fact that a lot of fans seemed to undervalue Dunn, so being “the next Dunn” isn’t even that horrible of a thing.

    • Well-researched post!

    • There are stats to find to back up a GOOD narrative of Bruce and stats that paint an ugly picture. Obviously RISP is not one for proving a mediocre Bruce (nor a good Bruce).

      The problem with Bruce is, for the past 5 years, he is a below-average hitter four months of a season (no telling which four months, and not continous), and he ends up with decent counting stats after mashing for 30-45 days. So yes, when on, he carries the team to several wins they might not otherwise get.

      The thing so many overlook is when he is slumping (about twice as long as his mashing) he is LOSING games as well. Strikeouts, pop outs, fly outs galore, just when getting on base to extend a rally or making contact for an SF or single to drive in a run would really make a difference once a week.

      I’d rather see Bruce give up 10 HRs a year (down to 20 or so) and add on some doubles and singles and get mildly consistent (slumps that aren’t as bad basically, staying ABOVE .220 average during slumps). I just don’t think Bruce can do it.

      Some fans complain about “the shift”, which maddens me to no end. The shift is fair and its up to a hitter to figure out how to hit the ball outside a narrow 20 degree range to their pull side. It’s called being a professional hitter. Bruce no longer earns the adjective “professional” if a silly shift can shut him down.

  8. I have always been a fan of Bruce primarily because he never has reached his full potential at least in my mind he hasn’t.I thought that stretch last year was the start of greatness for him but he fell off the cliff again because I feel he couldn’t handle the never ending trade rumors.Having said all of this he is what he is until he proves it over a full season but I fear it may be in another uniform.Sometimes a change of scenery does a player good but I really hope he isn’t traded.His value vs his salary is still good and he said he wants to remain a Red.Time will tell.

    • You’re kind of where I am when it comes to him. I like the guy. He was so hard to watch the last couple months last year though. if the Reds can get a fair return then great but I’m with Steve that perhaps, where his value is and the market is right now, it may be best to hold onto him.

  9. Given the 2017 option, Bruce is basically playing on a 1 year deal. He should be highly motivated to return to form. If he plays well in the first half (2010-2013 form) then he’s a bargain and could garner a decent return. If he’s bad, the Reds can cut bait at the end of the year.

    • That is the good news. If bad, hopefully, there is no thought of exercising the option or extending him. If good, he plays himself out of an extension, which would also save us Reds fans from a boondoggle of a long term deal for a decent, but not good, RF.

  10. I would like to see the rebuild/retool speed up. At the same time, as was mentioned in the article above, the returns on our more valuable trade chips this off season were underwhelming. With so many big names on the market or available in trade, and with the late season swoon, I agree with the sentiment that the Reds won’t return good value out of Bruce. At this point, it would be too little too late. So let him rebuild some value and be a veteran presence for all the young out fielders.

    • What rebuild/retool? It looks like a demolition to me without any plans for a rebuild. That is unless you like marginal prospects who make up for their lack of fielding by being power challenged. And they make up for their lack of power by not being very good hitters. Count me as one who is not impressed in the great “haul” of talent that has been accumulated through these trades.

      • All rebuilds look like that Dewey. The Cubs rebuilt for 100 years really. The turn around was a few lucky grabs and what appears to be an above average GM. Bryant fell into their laps. Rizzo really as well. Both appear to be on the way to meeting expectations and that really is just good fortune, not some secret formula.

        It feels like they are just trading vets and highly/over paid players for quantity of prospects. I would prefer the quality way over quantity, but both have merits.

        I am fine with the rebuild so far, though I would have like to have gotten higher quality for Chapman and Frazier, it’s a done deal and we did get some promising young players in those deals…just not a Bryant/Trout type unfortunately.

        The Pirates sucked for a decade, the Astros, the Royals, the Giants, basically all rebuilds look this ugly when you’re at the nadir, which I think we are. Once the big money players are gone, the upswing begins. The question is how long will it take and how many of these acquired (and already held) prospects will make it and how many will bust. No one knows, but given the quantity of promising players, even a bad outcome will yield a solid team in 2 or 3 years, just not maybe one that can contend.

      • …and we haven’t even had our high draft picks yet. It took a few for the Cubs, Astros and Royals to start building up the talent. Trust me, I lived in KC for 8 years and it was a LONG dry spell, that with patience (most fans didn’t have that), yielded a contender for what looks like several seasons at this point.

        The Reds are on a path that can lead to that, and at least they’re almost all in on the rebuild. The worst possible thing is to do a continuous reboot, keeping all the under-performing starters that already yielded 90+ losses and signing low-cost FAs each year as if that will magically make well-paid mediocre players good.

  11. I agree with keeping him, maybe even extending him now while his value is suppressed. I think trading Frazier lessens the need to trade Bruce, as they are both way too streaky (and too SO prone) and relying on them in the middle of the lineup together was problematic.

    • I like this! Try to extend him for another couple of years. The guy loves the organization and ole Bob sure must love him. He is still young enough to be a contributor to the team after the rebuild is over. With the free agent prices as high as they are, Bruce is and could again be a bargain. If a better option come along in the next year or two, then your dealing him with potentially a couple of years left on his contract. This could help the Reds get a bigger return if they decide to move him midseason or during an off season. This is all assuming he starts playing better. As of right now, Mez is our biggest question mark. I think we should be discussing what to do with him if and when he starts playing better.

    • If they can get him for about $5 million a year, then I would be okay with that. He isn’t worth much more than that unless he figures out how to stop being terrible for 50 game stretches twice a year.

  12. The “risk” of not trading Bruce now is that a revitalized JB and a healthy Mesoraco along with Votto, BP, and Suarez playing like they did last year just might push this team near .500 if the pitching progresses as much as many think it might 😉

    That could create a real conundrum as the deadline approaches.

    • And cause issues for the “We gotta have one of the top 5 draft picks!” crowd… Sorry, I can’t hope the team loses 100 games next year. I just can’t. No matter how logical it may be to do so.

    • LW, I don’t hope for losses just for losing sake or draft picks, but I don’t find winning a game when your 20 games out in September of any real value either.

      So early in the year, I have hope and want to see them win every game. This hope fades if they start off poorly or just keep losing close games. Once they are too far out to truly contend for a playoff berth (not eliminated, but might as well be) then I am no longer concerned with a win or wins. It just doesn’t move the needle. To me their is no difference between being 78-84 or being 66-96, if neither gets us to a wildcard. Do you care that they are just bad and not terrible? If it costs you a chance at a franchise player in the next year draft, do you really value being just bad over being really bad, in the standings?

      I don’t root for losses, but I don’t root for wins once all hope is lost, it just adds no value (except in a case of spoiling it for the Cards or…gulp, the Cubs, in 2016.

      As I said, I will be hoping for a miraculous 2016, where we outperform the wildest expectations and are in the playoffs in October. How they perform for the first three months can change that…why beat a dead horse? The horse may be dead by late July…STOP BEATING it…it’s futility.

      Signed:

      Mr. Common Sense

      • Strategically, Michael, you make a good case. I would rather watch a team that wins 75 games than a team that wins 60, though. That is, if I’m going to watch them. It’s primarily entertainment, and the worse a team plays, the less entertaining it is (unless it’s the Cubs of a few years ago, who sometimes transformed the grand old game to a strange sort of comic opera). I largely stopped watching late this past season. The Reds were not funny, just bad in a dispiriting way.

      • From a logical standpoint, I follow you. From a standpoint coming more from my heart and more from the former athlete in me, I can’t stand the losing. Any losses stink. Therefore, to me anyway, there is a huge difference between losing 85 games and losing 100 games. Like I said, your thoughts on it make a ton of sense and I can certainly see and understand your point of view. I’m just not wired that way.

        • LW, I follow what you’re saying as well. I get that. I just try to be practical when its obvious the total product any one season isn’t good enough. I knew before the season started, back when we had Jimmy Haynes for opening day, that acting like there is hope is just silly. You can watch the games and root, but the big picture of the season, I knew it was over after the first pitch was thrown.

          I do want to win…losing stinks, losing is boring, losing is stressful, seeing all the Cards, Pirates or Cubs fans mock us and gloat. It gets me steamed, but even that loses its punch by August or September. Thanks goodness for football in those years.

          Also, fantasy baseball helps. The Reds can suck and if I am in the running to win the overall points race in my league, I am glued to all baseball games. Thank goodness for fantasy sports.

  13. I think I have mentioned it before, but with Bruce the only options are to keep him until the trade deadline in hopes he builds value, or see if he is willing to take the extension he was asking for at a reduced rate. There isn’t anyone in the minors that can replace his production and his trade value is low at this point. He can easily provide the production to match his contract price. He just isn’t going to be the superstar everyone determined he was going to be.

    If he gets on a well timed hot streak he could return a decent prospect at the deadline. He is probably a 25+ HR bat if healthy which would be valuable to a contender who loses a bat to injury or a defense first team that needs to produce a few more runs. On the other hand if he would extend for a reasonable then you at least have one outfield position filled without breaking the budget.

    • If I knew what “reasonble” meant, I could be on board, even with my loss of love for Bruce. If he could be dropped down to the 7th spot in the order and we have better batting averages in the 3, 4 and 5 holes, Bruce would be a nice positive, even with his terrible slumps.

      If he wants about what he gets now, that’s on the high side of reasonable, even with staggering inflation of payroll/salaries. It wouldn’t be bad, but wouldn’t really help the payroll constrained mid-market Reds much either.

  14. The Rockies just signed Parra as a free agent and are looking to trade an OF for pitching. The Reds could package a couple of their young pitchers to the Rockies for Corey Dickerson, a near .300 career hitter with some power, and 4 years of team control remaining.

    If Bruce has a decent first half in 2016 trade him and his replacement, Dickerson, is already on the roster. In 2017 slide Winker into the other corner OF spot, and if Hamilton can figure out how to get on base, you have a very good young OF with a minimum of 3 years control in each position.

    Just a thought…..

    • I’d be a little wary of his road splits since he plays in Colorado. Last year he was .257/.272/.453 wRC+ 94 on the road. Also, he was pretty bad against lefties. .268/.305/.357 last year wRC+ 64.

      • Dickerson was injured alot in 2015. I saw 2 of 3 games in the Reds series with the Rockies at GABP in May of 2014. Dickerson blistered the ball in both games. He hit 2 2B’s and 2 HR’s in a game vs. Alfredo Simon when Simon was in the middle of his all-star first half of 2014. I fell in love with Dickerson that day and have followed him since. He is a good ball player.
        Dickerson would be a very nice addition in LF for the Reds. Especially with his hitting in 81 games at GABP. Dickerson is a LH hitter which the 2016 Reds seem to not have in abundance. Dickerson has a nice, albeit short, history of OBP and hitting in the #2 and #5 holes. Dickerson as a Red would be sweet. And that in itself would be something this Reds front office would not recognize.

        • I don’t know what kind of interest the Rockies would have but it appears to me the Reds have a lot of young arms in the surplus pile. That is if they can figure out who the keepers are and who is surplus. IMO the Reds have about 10 or 12 pitchers that are between a number 4 or 5 starter are quality big league bullpen pitchers and all seem to be 2 to 3 years from reaching what they are going to be eventually.

        • I don’t think the Reds should trade either Stephenson or Reed. Both are near-ready (could even see time in 2016) and look to be top of the rotation starters. Add those two to a healthy Bailey, Iglesias, and Disco and the Reds rotation may rebound pretty quickly.

          I think anyone other than those two guys should be on the table to move in a trade that helps the Reds moving forward. I probably wouldn’t offer up both Travieso and Garrett. Keeping one of those players still allows the Reds to have “elite” level depth. I’d also probably try to keep one of Lorenzen or Finnegan for a future back end of the bullpen role. But everyone from Lamb, Moscot, Davis, Mella, and Romano should be available along with 1-2 of the other guys mentioned.

          If the Reds were to engage the Rockies in trade talks, they should try to get McMahon (top 100 3B) in the deal as well. The Reds biggest hole right now is 3B, and he’s blocked by Arenado for the foreseeable future.

      • Agreed. I would never trade for a Rockie that hasnt’ proved he can hit away from Coors.

    • Issue is the Rockies are peddling Cargo and Blackmon, not Dickerson since he is the younger player and rockies have longer control

  15. I can’t agree with this article enough. If the returns on Frazier and Chapman are any indication, why not just consider Bruce an inconsistent big bat that we’re renting for one, possibly two years, at a bargain price. No different that Byrd was, or Dexter Fowler would be. And who knows? He might return to pre-meniscus form?

    • That is one valid point of view for keeping Bruce, the fact they can’t seem to get value in trades this off-season. Bruce won’t bring back much anyway, but you’d hope for one top 6 prospect at least…judging by Frazier return, I’d say Bruce would bring Jocketty a #12 prospect and a non-ranked one or therebouts. Might as well keep him and see if any spark flickers in that up n down brain of his.

  16. I generally agree that there is no need to trade Bruce right now, but not for all the reasons given in the article. I don’t believe that the decision to trade Bruce now should have anything to do with either a) his salary and whether he’ll be “worth” it, or b) his impact on the 2016 or 2017 teams.

    The Reds have already signaled that they are not planning to compete in either of the next two years. If they were going to compete in 2017, they should have kept Frazier, considering that he made the team way better. It’s hard to compete when you trade your best players away.

    So assuming that we are looking at 2018 as our next shot at the playoffs, Bruce will not be on that team unless he is extended. A second extension for an aging and struggling outfielder seems unlikely, so we’ll also assume that he won’t be extended. That means that the Reds should definitely trade Bruce at some point. The only question is when.

    After his poor second half, and as Steve mentioned, with so many free agent outfielders this year, the Reds probably won’t get a big haul in terms of prospects back for Bruce. Now, something is better than nothing, and nothing is what Bruce will contribute to the 2018 Reds. But I think that it is worth the risk of letting Bruce play for the Reds this April, May, and June.

    If he can regain his form, he will be much more highly coveted at the deadline, and with a cheap option on his contract, he won’t be a straight rental. I think the Reds can get better prospects in that trade than they could if they traded him right now, and that’s really the only reason to hold onto him at this point, from a straight management point of view.

    I’ve always been a huge Bruce fan though, so from that perspective, I’d be fine if they kept him forever.

    • Agreed. Well written. We all know I am no fan of Bruce (anymore, I once was years ago), but they need to do whats best for the teams future. Unless some team craving LH power for RF comes knocking with an overpay trade offer now, keep him and HOPE he can hit above average for the first 3 months and pounce early (first trade of the deadline trades) for a team that comes calling. Send a lower tier pitching prospect with him and maybe a million or two to get a top 3 hitting prospect if possible, or two top 8 hitting prospects).

  17. Look we had Todd Frazier last year and still lost 98 games we need great pitching awesome bullpen strike out way too much Billy Hamilton doesn’t get on enough should bunt more play better defense pitchers have stay out at least 7innings I been reds fan all my life watched these players come up from the miners got be able compete better against the cubs cards and pirates

  18. I’d trade Bruce for a good bat boy. He’s too inconsistent. In all his years of playing he never learned to pull the ball to left field and he doesn’t know how to bunt.

  19. Definitely agree – we got boxed a bit into a corner by waiting and then panicked a little bit and now patience is prudent since we have some breathing room on salaries, etc. Hope Bruce has dynamite first half and trade and deadline, along with Phillips, if possible.

    Trading now would be at the absolute nadir of his value given hit season and the plethora of outfield options.

  20. Finally, the do not trade Jay Bruce article. He will hit 40 HRs, maybe next year, maybe 2017 and we will be tickled that we never traded him.

    I think he is close to figuring it out. You can’t explain the funk other than he swings at bad pitches. You can explain the MVP period of his 2015 season as he has a great swing. He just needs to trust it and not guess so much.

    Does he wear contacts? I often wonder about the eyesight of the players since that is a huge component in hitting. Jay has not been great about pitch recognition, but he did learn where LF is located when he was in the batters box last year.

    We will not regret playing Jay’s contract out. And of course I am all for signing him to a team friendly extension right now

    • I agree with that assessment 100 percent. I also hope the reds are trying to trade some of their arms to Colorado for Dickerson or even Blackmon. I would hate to see Bruce traded.

    • I’ve wondered about his eyes too and not only at the plate. Some of his defensive foibles the last couple of years on balls that he seemed catch earlier in his career set me to wondering.

      • He mashes for a month, so eyes are NOT the problem. If they were, he’d be consistently bad, with only maybe day versus night games being different.

        • I’m not sure your assumption is accurate. I have an eye condition which started abruptly not quite a decade ago that is unrelated to aging.

          I can always read a computer screen, watch TV, drive etc. but some days are much better than others. Sometimes on days when I am not even directly aware of the degradation I have a terrible time with fine hand eye coordination trying to pick things up, putting keys into locks etc, or notice I am bumping into things as I move around etc. Other days I do these simple tasks about as easily as ever.

        • Anything is possible, but you think Bruce might have an eye condition that is fine for 45 days and then suddenly bad for the next 70 days? I don’t.

        • Feels like a way to get Bruce an excuse for the bad, which has outweighed the good the past two years. The 2014 injury surely has played a part, but if he displays the same thing in 2016, one hot month and crap, it’s time to part ways and never look back. I’d rather see option B, as unknown as it is now, than the same old Bruce.

  21. What good is he for this team? Trade him and save the money for when spending it will matter. Who cares if he hits like an MVP for 66 games if he plays like a AA player for another 90-100? We’ve seen all that JB will ever be, and even if he were that guy for a whole year, it won’t matter in 2016.

    • +1

      Finally someone I can relate to on this board.

      I will grant the others on here there is hope for Bruce, given he is in his prime (he ain’t young anymore people) and his best seasons should be between 2014 and 2018 or so. So far, his early prime has been underwhelming, but if his attitude and approach ever change and he becomes a willing adjuster at the plate, he does have some solid upside. His earlier years showed this when he actually hit for a solid average (although that was during the last remnants of the hitting era, so a .270 average 5 years ago was no better than a .250 average today).

      I will be amazed if Bruce improves his slumps into a normal range (for a slump) and keeps his mashing month high. I like to see the peaks and valleys shaved off a bit and that is what has me so anti-Bruce, the narrow, once a season peak and the wider, twice a season trough.

  22. Here is some good news. The RSox have signed Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/01/red-sox-sign-brennan-boesch.html

    Nice to know there are some other orgs willing to pitch in and help protect the Reds from themselves.

    • Ditto for Dominguez signing with the Red Sox and Bourgeois signing with the Snakes. We are now 5 weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting and I haven’t heard even a nibble for anyone signing Byrd or Schumaker…hmmm…go figure.

      • There seemed to be some acrimony (with B.Price) on Byrd’s part when he left; so the Reds should be safe there. I suspect Skippy is somewhere counting that option payout knowing it was his last player payday

    • Any update on the whereabouts of Skip? Hope he is some where on the west coast and out of cell tower range.

  23. Per Mark Sheldon via Twitter…

    Donald Lutz is back with the reds on a Minor League deal. Did NOT come with an invite to Major League camp at Spring Training.

    Glad to see the Big Lutz back with the Reds for what should be his last shot at the show in his age 27 season. With his ill-timed injury from 2015 behind him and hopefully regular playing time at the AAA level, maybe we will once and for all see what he can or can not do to help the the big league club out at a corner OF position and backup 1B.

    • It sounds like a straight MiLB deal, certainly not a tryout deal and most likely without a walk away option either. Hopefully BL is healthy and they put him in LF at AAA and see what transpires. However Duvall has an option remaining which could complicate this situation given the “numbers” game at the MLB level with YRod and Cave most likely having to stick on the 25 man to stay in the Reds org.

      • Sam I am LeCure has signed a minor league deal with the D-backs. He wouldn’t have been much help for the Reds bullpen, sadly.

        • I will always remember what Sam LeCure did to pick up the Reds when Cueto went down in Game 1 of the 2012 playoff in S.F.

    • Lutz has really put the work in to rehab his elbow after the TJ surgery in May. His rehab progressed well enough that he has been playing baseball with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League since the end of November. After a slow start he has his slash line up to .270/.337/.517 .854 OPS. The surgery doesn’t seemed to have hurt his power, he has 4 HR and 10 doubles in 89 AB.He has not played in the field yet, only DH to give the elbow more time to heal. They were talking about him possibly playing some 1B before the season ends. I would suppose that the ABL might be close to AA baseball in the states. I almost hated to see him sign with the Reds, I doubt he will ever get much of a shot with them.

  24. I agree that Bruce should NOT be traded. His 2016 salary and 2017 option pay are below the market for players with his numbers (good and even the bad numbers) are now getting and he is a plus defense guy. If (always a big word) he can convince himself to stay away from the low and outside slider he would increase his numbers dramatically just because he would get better swings. If he could take the ball to left occasionally he would be an all star. I was watching a Marlins feed last year and the announcers said that Stanton was no longer taking batting practice with the team before games as the team had purchased a pitching machine (just for Stanton) that threw nothing but low and away sliders. It was under the stands and therefore that was where he took BP. Sounds like a good investment to build not only skill ,but also confidence

    • $12.5 million is hardly “below the market” for a replacement level RF. That’s what Bruce was in 2014 and 2015. Your average, run-of-the mill RF starter. There were about 15 RF worse and 15 better basically. Certainly salaries keep inflating and perhaps $12.5 million is now what an average player gets, and if so, he might be fairly paid, but no way is he “below the market”.

  25. I am done with Bruce, he just won’t be a solid MLB hitter.

    That said, trading him NOW doesn’t make much sense. The FA OF market still has solid bats (better than Bruce) available. Bruce has been a dumpster fire for two seasons, save for one glorious month and a half long surge.

    Maybe, just maybe, he’ll come out of the gate in 2016 quickly. He was TERRIBLE coming out of the gate in 2015 though. Not until LATE MAY did he start doing anything. If that happens again in 2016, he’ll have the trade value of a journeyman semi-pro player.

    I hope he mashes for all of April and the Reds don’t foolishly think this is it, Bruce has morphed into an actual hitter. I hope instead they say, geez Louise, we got to trade this guy before he has his expected two month long swoon in the .150 BA range…STAT!

  26. Could the Reds be bringing back OF Drew Stubbs on a minor league deal for a bench spot?? Speed, defense, some pop in his bat and can hit LH pitching. RHer’s, not so much. It would have to be a semi-platoon situation and a pinch-hitting role.

    • I never saw one player take more pitches down the middle for strike three than Stubbs. Swing at the first two pitches in the dirt and take a fat fastball down the middle for strike three. I normally am quiet watching a game (my dad used to yell as if every player could hear him call them bums), but Stubbs would get me flustered enough to actual say something like “come on”, or “for crying out loud”.

      He did look like a real player in Colorado, but I am not sure I trust anyone that was reborn in Colorado.

      All that said, a minor league deal, I suppose, so long as the manager doesn’t start him over a rookie that needs the seasoning and needs to take his lumps NOW so he can be ready later.

  27. I’ve always felt that Jay Bruce was the key to a successful Reds team, but as we know his offense has been on and off. Hopefully Jay will get off to a good start this season and contribute to the middle batting order with Meso, Votto, and Suarez. Perhaps July will be the time to trade him to a pennant contender.

  28. Man, I love me some Cody Reed. I think he was a steal in the trade deadline return, but this is the type of move needed, from a neutral third party perspective, and this makes a lot of sense for both parties from the Old Cossack’s perspective.

    Pirates trade OFs Austin Meadows and Willy Garcia to Reds for LHP Cody Reed.

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/ask-ba-proposing-interesting-prospect-prospect-trades/

    Trading Cody Reed, especially within the division scares the daylights out of me, but the Reds have quality prospect pitching depth galore right now and lack quality prospect OF depth.

    J.J. Cooper makes a solid case for such an action from both sides of the plate.

  29. I like Reed as well but would make that trade in a second.I love pitching and defense but you have to score and as stated we have pitching depth.The Old Cossack is right on with this one.

  30. Off Topic but Upton has signed with the Tigers. The deal includes an opt-out clause after 2 years. This new trend of opt-out clauses changes some things from a negotiation standpoint I’m sure. It feels a lot more complicated to me.

  31. Some Reds fan tweeted to Kris Bryant, asking him why he couldn’t have taken Jay Bruce with him when he went swimming with the sharks. A little harsh, but I get his point/frustration.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. Contemporary Reds thrills: witnessing Jay Bruce's 2010 homer and Homer Bailey's 2013 no-hitter in person. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 280 characters about the Reds is Redleg Nation, although you can follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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