August 11, 2017: Jay Bruce Traded…Is that All there Is?

By Joe Rini

I’m really not one to write about proposed baseball trades. I can identify a team’s needs but I don’t know every other teams’ 40 man rosters or minor league systems or what other team’s are offering like a front office’s scouting staff, so how can I really say a one deal is better than another deal…but Jay Bruce for Ryder Ryan, a 22-year old, 30th round 2016 draft pick, Class-A level minor league relief pitcher? I don’t know, there’s something about this deal that reminds me of the late singer Peggy Lee and her classic song, “Is That All There Is.”

Jay Bruce for Ryder Ryan…is that it? Why does this trade feel like more about saving money than getting the best players for Bruce?

By trading Bruce, the Mets saved about $4 million in salary. Supposedly the Yankees offered two prospects for Bruce but the Mets refused to pick up part of Bruce’s salary for the remainder of the season.

With these type of trades of veterans for minor leaguers, the team acquiring the high priced veteran may offer salary relief or better prospects but usually not both to the team trading the veteran. The Mets seem to have chosen the latter.

Ryan was a 30th round draft pick in 2016. If the Mets had offered Bruce a qualifying offer after the season and he chose free agency (as most expected), they’d have gotten draft compensation for Bruce which would’ve involved a signing bonus for a higher round draft pick in 2018 than what they’re paying Ryan.

Presumably Ryan will have a quicker route to the majors than a 2018 draft pick but as a Class-A level pitcher, I don’t think he’ll be helping the Mets bullpen at the major league level in 2018. He throws in the mid to high 90s for a reliever (which seems to be becoming a requirement for the job) but is considered somewhat of a project/high ceiling type of player because he was mostly a third baseman in college. He could very well be a late inning reliever for the Mets but not likely in 2018.

Having only recently converted to being a pitcher has appeal to the Mets because Ryan has less mileage on his arm than minor league pitchers who have weather beaten arms from years of travel teams and pitching showcases. I know from a brief conversation I had with Mets GM Sandy Alderson on the field before a game this season, the Mets consider how much a potential draftee has thrown as a amateur.

Alderson told the press that the Bruce trade was about “creating opportunities for other players;” in fact, first base prospect Dominic Smith is being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas for this weekend’s series in Philadelphia. He said it wasn’t about saving money but to his credit, he said cost was a factor as was the facts that Ryan didn’t need to be added to the major league roster and he had a high upside; he also acknowledged that a deal with the cross town rival Yankees would be complicated but not “prohibitive.”

Will this deal work for the Mets? Time will tell. They’ve stockpiled five hardthrowing minor leaguer relief pitchers in peddling Bruce, Lucas Duda, and Addison Reed in the last two weeks but who really knows how many will contribute at the major league level. Yes, I thought the Mets should’ve re-signed Bartolo Colon so maybe I’m good at spending the Wilpon family’s money but an extra prospect or a higher rated prospect for Bruce would’ve been good to have even if it cost a little more.