If you’re a Mets fan, your patience this offseason has paid off, because unlike the Red Sox and most of the MLB, your team has actually made a move, namely, re-signing free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce to a 3-year, $39 million dollar contract.
In what is widely considered to be the most uneventful offseason since the strike of 1994-1995, Bruce’s new deal finally gives us something to talk about. It’s the second-largest contract signed by any position player this year, reuniting Bruce with the team that traded him away to the Indians midsummer.
It’s an interesting signing for the Mets because the right-fielder’s stats are a real mixed bag. He hit 60 home runs over the past two seasons, 36 of them in 2017, a new career-high (and 12 more homers than Mookie Betts, who led the Red Sox with a measly 24 HR.) But Bruce’s .324 OPS in 2017 was in the bottom 20 for all qualified outfielders, and that was his best in four seasons. His 22.5% strikeout rate was also one of the worst in the league. He’s also not a strong base-runner, and already in his early 30s, we can’t really expect him to speed up.
Bruce will take right field, keeping Cespedes in left and moving Conforto to center. Hopefully, this trio will help a team that had the second-worst runs-allowed record in the National League last season, though much of that burden will still fall on the pitching rotation, which hopes to bounce back after a disastrous 2017 season.
The Mets finished the year with 92 losses, though they scored more collective runs in 2017 than they did in the previous two seasons. Like many teams who didn’t make it to the World Series, they parted ways with manager Terry Collins at the end of the season. They look to new skipper Mickey Callaway, formerly of the Cleveland Indians coaching staff, to right the ship in 2018. Callaway, like fellow freshmen managers Gabe Kapler (Phillies), Aaron Boone (Yankees), and Alex Cora (Red Sox), is in his early 40s, part of a shift in the Majors to hire younger leaders to energize their teams and who will hopefully connect better with their young players. This strategy will undoubtedly yield positive results for some teams, but as to which teams those will be, only time and games will tell.