CLEVELAND - One of my favorite songs by the legendary Steve Winwood goes something like this: 'While you see a chance.....take it!'
That's exactly what the Cleveland Indians did on Wednesday by acquiring outfielder Jay Bruce from the New York Mets for the low price of minor-league reliever Ryder Ryan.
I couldn't believe some of the criticisms I saw on Twitter after the trade. From my buddy Dan Menningen at 92.3 The Fan, "Not going to lie kids, don't like this at all for the Indians. Bruce doesn't walk and is a mess in the outfield. If he is cold he is useless."
A fan later tweeted me the following:
I live in Cincinnati and Bruce goes on long, depressive droughts at the plate. Not sure what they gave up but keep expectations low— GregUP (@JumboHomeLoan) August 10, 2017
Let's be clear, this move is incredibly low-risk, high-reward for the defending AL Champs. This is the final year of Bruce's contract and the Indians are picking up around $5 million dollars of the remaining portion of his 2016 deal (more on that in a bit). Ryder Ryan is a 30th round pick from last year's draft and was pitching relief for Low A Lake County. I mean maybe he becomes a stud in a few years, maybe not. But what really are you out?
The Tribe's offense has been consistently inconsistent this year. When one or two players are on a tear, five others seem to be mired in a slump. Michael Brantley was just put on the disabled list after spraining the same ankle that had him on the DL in May. Who knows how long he'll be out? Lonnie Chisenhall has been on the shelf for a month with a strained calf.
This team needed a jolt, and Jay Bruce can provide it.
Look at this stat put up by Jordan Bastian of Indians.com & MLB.com after the trade was announced:
Jay Bruce this season: .258, 29 HR, .847 OPS— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 10, 2017
All Indians outfielders: .276, 38 HR, .787 OPS
This guy can help the Indians. They need some left-handed pop. Bruce is 9th in the Majors in homers, and was tied for 4th in the National League.
Manager Terry Francona loves guys that are versatile. Bruce can play right field, first base, or DH. Think about how much Tito likes to go to the bench in the postseason. You could have any combination of Bruce, Brantley, Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Guyer, and Austin Jackson to choose from.
My colleague Pat Chiesa pointed this out:
When @Indians OF is healthy:— Pat Chiesa (@PatChiesa) August 10, 2017
Bruce- 29 HR 75 RBI
Brantley- .299 AVG 52 RBI
And 2 CFs who make absurd catches.
What's not to like?
'He strikes out a lot,' you say? He also drives in runs. No one in the National League has more RBIs since 2010 than Bruce does. He's also the only one in the majors to have seven different seasons of 25 homers or more in this decade.
'I don't like his defense,' you retort?
Peter Gammons, the Hall of Fame baseball writer, had this great stat on Bruce's defense before and after his 2016 trade from Cincinnati to the Mets:
Coaching, positioning matters:in 838 Inning in RF for Reds, Jay Bruce's Def. R Saved were -11. In 351 innings for Mets +2— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 18, 2017
Also consider that Bruce has played 23 career games at Progressive Field as a member of the Reds, so it's not like he's heading to completely foreign territory. In fact as a hitter at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, the New York Post's Joel Sherman points out that Bruce has had quite a bit of success:
Remember too that this is the last year of Bruce's contract. He is 30-years-old and undoubtedly looking at free agency as an opportunity for that last big contract. Players in walk-years on contending teams have plenty of motivation to perform well.
So let's sit back and give this guy a chance.
And let's also praise three groups of people for this trade: Ownership, the Tribe's front office, and you....the fans!
Can we please put the 'Dolans are cheap' hot takes to bed finally? Paul Dolan has ponied up a lot of money to lock up most of the Tribe's core players, sign Edwin Encarnacion to a $20 million-per-year contract, and pick up the rest of Jay Bruce's deal.
It shows his commitment to winning, and it reflects the fact that the Tribe's attendance is improving. Fans want to believe that another 'October to remember' is possible and are filling the seats at Progressive Field.
Tribe President Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff, and their staff also deserve a ton of credit. They recognized a need and weren't afraid to wait until they got the best deal possible for a player they've been pursing for a long time.
The risk is low. The reward could be great.
For the Indians, now that they have added a game-changing hitter, as Steve Winwood would say, "it's all on you."
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