With the trade deadline just a few days away, the Pittsburgh Pirates could be looking at potential outfield options.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have some decisions to make in the next few days. With the trade deadline four days away, the Pirates have an opportunity to make some moves to bolster different aspects of their squad. While we have highlighted plenty of relievers the Pirates could aim to acquire in the coming days, they may also be poised to look at outfielders as well.
With Gregory Polanco‘s injury woes and his current stint on the disabled list, the Pirates could use an outfielder for the time being. They could also use an outfielder capable of playing in the postseason – if the Pirates win the division or gain a Wild Card spot – to play in the absence of Starling Marte, who is ineligible for the postseason due to his suspension for PED use.
On Twitter, we asked our followers “If you could make ONE trade to improve this Pirates team, what would it be?” There were plenty of intriguing answers, but the one name I saw multiple times was New York Mets outfielder Jay Bruce. While I believe it is a long shot that the Pirates make a deal for a player such as Bruce, I decided to take a closer in depth look at a player who could potentially be a suitable short-term option for the Bucs.
Profile and performance
At 30 years of age, Bruce has spent his 10 year major league career with two organizations including the Cincinnati Reds. Bruce spent over eight years playing for the Pirates divisional rivals before being traded at last year’s trade deadline to the Mets.
A three-time all-star and two-time silver slugger award winner, Bruce has been a consistent force of power in his career, blasting 266 home runs. Bruce has amassed the 20 home run mark in nine of his 10 seasons and has hit 30 plus homers on four occasions. Bruce is again on pace to hit 30 home runs this season, currently sitting steady with 25 on the year.
With the homers, comes a lot of strikeouts, and Bruce has definitely racked up the K’s. The veteran has struck out 100 or more times in a season on eight occasions and is on pace to do so once again this season.
Bruce has spent a majority of his career playing around the outfield. He has made 1296 career starts in right field along with 36 in center and 11 in left. Bruce has even made nine appearances at first base in his career including six this season with New York.
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Table courtesy of Baseball Reference
The case for Bruce
- Bruce is hitting at a much better level than he has in the last few years. After a 2014 season in which he hit .217 and a 2015 when he hit .226, Bruce is backing up a 2016 season when he hit .250 with a year in which he is currently hitting .264. His on-base percentage of .327 is much higher than past years as well. Not to mention his .847 OPS is far above the league average of .750.
- Like I mentioned before, Bruce’s power is hard to ignore. And it’s something the Pirates could use desperately. They rank second to last in baseball in home runs and Bruce could certainly come in and help improve that number.
- When it comes to the options the Pirates have internally at the major league level to currently fill in for Polanco during his DL stint, they are limited to guys like Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna and John Jaso. While I think these guys serve as capable platoon guys in the outfield, there is no question Bruce is an upgrade from those three players.
- Though he doesn’t have much experience at the position, it’s possible that Bruce could play a bit over at first base, giving Josh Bell some rest during the Pirates stretch run.
The case against Bruce
- Bruce might not be the ideal candidate for what the Pirates want from an acquired outfielder. Bruce would fit in nicely with Polanco on the DL, but what happens to Bruce when he returns? He’s a player who deserves to be in a team’s lineup everyday and while he would fit in nicely to replace Marte if the Bucs were to reach the postseason, he’s not a player you keep in a bench role especially given what the team might have to give up for him. I think the Pirates would want to go after a guy who can fill in at a high level at the moment, but also be capable of being a quality bench bat when Polanco returns to the lineup.
- One of the best aspects of this Pirates offense is that they don’t strike out often and they put the ball in play. In fact, their 723 strikeouts is the third least in all of baseball and least in the National League. Bruce is a guy who strikes out a lot and would raise that number. While his power is mightily impressive, Bruce is the type of player who you have to take with a grain of salt.
What it might take
According to many reports from outlets such as CBS New York and ESPN, there is a soft market for the Mets outfielder. Bruce would definitely serve as a rental option and I’m sure the Mets, who are 10 games out of a Wild Card spot, would be willing to deal him for the right price.
Bruce is making $13 million this season and the team that would acquire him would have to pay a good amount of that payment, around $4 million.
On our Twitter page, we had plenty of people chime in with possible deals to bring in Bruce, some of which also included Mets reliever Addison Reed. If the Pirates could do this deal, it would undoubtedly fill two areas the Pirates are attempting to improve. One of the deals a follower mentioned was trading shortstop Cole Tucker, the Pirates No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, and right handed pitcher Clay Holmes, the No. 18 ranked prospect.
I’m not entirely sold on the organization being willing to give up Holmes, who could be at the major league level as soon as next season in a deal, but you never know. The organization could see a deal like this, which may also include another lower level prospect, as one that is worth it for the present benefit it would bring to the club.
While this deal could make sense, and I’m sure Pirates fans would like to see it happen, odds are very slim that it does. Like I said before, the Pirates may want to find a player who can fit in to their situation of filling in as a starter until Polanco returns, moving to a bench role and filling in for Marte in a possible playoff scenario.
The Pirates have also been known to make smaller, underrated moves at the deadline. They never are in the hunt for big name stars like Bruce. While I’m a strong believer in the notion that anything is possible, I don’t see this as a deal that will get done prior to Monday’s deadline.
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