ZiPS’ projected value: Three years, $53.3 million (A.A.V.: $17.76M)
Jay Bruce is a three-time All-Star with five 30+ homer campaigns on his resume, culminating in a career-high 36 home runs in 2017. So why is he in the bargain bin?
He certainly doesn’t believe he should be, given that he’s rumored to be seeking a five-year deal in the range of $80-90 million. He’s unlikely to get that in this market, yet the average annual value remains in line with what ZiPS projects. If he ends up settling for a three-year deal then this projection could prove accurate.
Bruce falls short of the elite class of free agent hitters this year due mostly to his tendency to be a streaky hitter. He struggles against left-handed pitching, owning a career .226 average and .712 OPS against southpaws. Teams aren’t going to pay top dollar for a hitter who should be in a platoon role.
The Mets tried to trade Bruce last winter but couldn’t find any takers. They ended up settling for a mid-season deal that sent him to Cleveland for a relief pitcher toiling away in the low-level minor leagues. That should give us some insight into the market for Bruce, who won’t command the mega-bucks that J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer will.
Boston may still target the top-tier bats on the free agent or trade market but if they strike out on those options then Bruce may be their best fallback. He’s a virtual lock to provide the power numbers they seek with less downside than the other options on this list. He’ll be a bit more expensive, but shouldn’t cost nearly as much as the top targets.