Baltimore Orioles don’t need Jay Bruce

Back in December, the Baltimore Orioles were reportedly in talks with the Cincinnati Reds to acquire outfielder Jay Bruce. Clearly, those talks went nowhere, as Bruce still plays for the Reds. Bruce was seen as an attractive option for the Orioles following the losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis over the winter. Bruce is signed through the end of the 2016 season, with a team option for 2017. As the Reds continue to labor along through the 2015 season at 35-40 and continue to fall further and further behind the big guns in the National League Central, there has been growing sentiment around baseball that the Reds will need to begin tearing down parts of their roster in an effort to rebuild. That means Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, and Bruce are likely ticketed out of Cincinnati.

With the fact that the Reds will be sellers as the trade deadline approaches, there has been another uptick in chatter surrounding the Orioles and Bruce. Bruce, a two-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger, has batted just .225 over his past 210 games with 215 strikeouts and only 30 home runs. He had averaged 32 home runs per season from 2011 to 2013. Last May, he suffered a torn meniscus which kept him out most of the month. The injury interrupted his season, so his struggles may partially be attributable to that fact. Bruce has had a slight uptick in production closer to career averages this season. He is no longer an All-Star caliber player, but Bruce looks like a fair-to-good option for a team looking to add a power bat at the trade deadline.

So, should the Baltimore Orioles be the team that pulls the trigger on a deal for the 28-year-old rightfielder?

The corner outfield positions have been a problem for the Orioles this season. Replacing Cruz and Markakis was not going to be easy, and the Orioles struggled to find the right recipe in the first two months of the season, shuttling Travis Snider, Delmon Young, Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce in-and-out of the lineup. De Aza was shipped out to Boston after struggling mightily. Snider now appears firmly entrenched in the everyday lineup, and has batted .281/.343/.469 in June when finally given regular playing time, with two home runs and four doubles. The Orioles also appear to have struck gold with the addition of Chris Parmelee, who has hit four home runs in his first 13 games with the team. Nolan Reimold has also thrown his name in the mix, with a .514 slugging percentage in his first 15 games since being called up from Triple-A. Steve Pearce has also gotten hot, after hovering near the Mendoza Line for most of April and May. Pearce has a .293/.341/.415 line in June, very similar to his season statistics in 2014.

All of this depth gives the Orioles options to continue playing the hot hand in left and right field. If they trade for Bruce, Buck Showalter will be forced to play him in right field every day, whether or not he struggles. Of all the things Showalter has done the past four-plus years in Baltimore, knowing the right buttons to press when filling out a lineup card is the area in which he has excelled most. Adding Bruce takes away Showalter’s ability to be flexible, and could hurt the Orioles.

Bruce is a high-strikeout, low-average player. Yes, he will hit his fair share of home runs, but that is not something the Orioles struggle to do. In an Orioles’ lineup that is loaded at the top, Bruce would hit in the lower third — possibly as low as seventh or eighth depending on how Jonathan Schoop hits when he returns. In that position, the Orioles do not need a 30-home run hitter. They need someone who can get on base ahead of Manny Machado and the top of the order. Bruce just will not accomplish that frequently enough, thanks to the high strikeout total and defensive shifts that will rob him of base hits the same way Chris Davis is robbed.

Jay Bruce looks good on paper for the Baltimore Orioles, and when looking at his overall career resume, he seems like a valuable asset. But when adding an asset, a team must consider the player’s overall fit in their lineup. Bruce would be a great fit for a team like the New York Mets, who would presumably bat him in the middle of the lineup. For the Orioles, however, who would bat him much lower, a player who does not reach base at a better than league average clip just does not make sense. The Orioles have one of the shrewdest front offices in the league, and will not make a trade based on name value alone. I would be surprised to see Bruce seriously connected to the Orioles in trade talks, and even more surprised if he ends up landing there at the deadline. He is just not the type of player that will put the Orioles over the top in their pursuit of a playoff berth.

3 Responses

  1. aoril01

    Have you noticed, with all the sub .500 clubs in baseball they only one hack sports writers are circling over is the Cincinnati Reds? How many articles have you seen on Cueto? Frazier? Leake? , Bruce? Hamilton?. This sort of proves that the hack sports writers don’t really know anything about baseball (there are currently nine clubs with worse records than the Reds with a total of 225 players not with Cincinnati). To be sure baseball has always been full of fire sales stories but back in the days of intelligent sports writers, those stories began two weeks after the All Star game and covered all clubs even though that meant the writer had to work harder. Another thing you don’t see out of hack sportswriters these day.

    Reply
    • Joshua Sadlock

      Well, friend, I can’t speak for the rest of the hack sportswriters out there, but it seems the Reds are really the only sub-.500 team with any real assets to trade. The Brewers might have a few, and there has been plenty of speculation there. The Reds have an aging core of players, are in a small market, and could be in the best division in baseball. It’s only logical that they would begin peeling off a few pieces to try and restock a farm system ranked in the bottom half by most other hack sportswriters.

      As for me, I was just reexamining a player that the Orioles had been connected to over the winter. The Orioles outfield picture has begun to clear up a little bit, and with the rising chatter surrounding Bruce as a fit for the Orioles, I wanted to examine that. Still have to work plenty hard whether its July 1 or July 15.

      Reply
  2. Pete

    THERE IS NOT ONE CINCINNATI PLAYER THAT I WOULD LOVE TO SEE GET OUT OF CINCINNATI TODAY AND THAT IS JAY BRUCE. OBVIOUSLY HE DOES NOT KNOW OR DO WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE IN SPRING TRAINING. IF HE IS NOT GONE BY 2016 I MAY CANCEL MY SEASON TICKETS AS HE IS UNHEALTHY FOR ME EVERY TIME HE STEPS UP TO THE PLATE. IT IS MORE DISPARAGING THAT THE GUY MAKES $11 OR $12 MILLION AND CAN ONLY BAT .215. HE HAS SHOWED SIGNS LATELY OF BEING ABLE TO SEE THE BALL BETTER, BUT THOSE LOW OUTSIDE PITCHES THAT ALL TEAMS USE ON HIM ARE A KILLER. I WOULD ALSO HOPE SOMETHING COULD BE DONE WITH OTHER .215 HITTERS ON THE CLUB. I WONDER HOW THEY CONSIDER THEMSELVES BIG LEAGUE PLAYERS. YOU MUST REMEMBER GOOD DEFENSE IS EASIER TO FIND THAN GOOD OFFENSIVE PLAYERS.

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