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The New York Mets signed free agent Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million deal on Wednesday. Of all the possible teams the 30-year-old outfielder could have signed with, the Mets are one that will give him the opportunity to play every day.
Bruce experienced a mini-bounce back in 2017, having one of the best seasons of this career. He hit .254/.324/.508 with 36 home runs and 101 RBI, with most of the damage coming with the Mets. I expect similar production this season, as he should be hitting in the middle of the same lineup, at the same home park, and against the same opponents. Projections have him regressing quite a bit, but some 2017 changes to his launch angle should keep his power up. Here are his launch angles and groundball rates over the past three seasons (since detailed batted ball data has been available).
The extra flyballs helped him hit a career-high 36 home runs in 2017.
The big loser of this signing, at least for 2018, will be one of Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo. With Conforto sidelined to start the season as he recovers from left shoulder surgery, the Mets’ outfield looks to be Bruce, Nimmo, and Yoenis Cespedes on Opening Day. When Conforto returns, I would guess Nimmo heads to the bench. Then again, this is the Mets we’re talking about, and the front office’s job seems to be screwing over Conforto as much as possible, so anything can happen.
Here’s how I’m going to handle the situation: I’m not going to own Conforto unless he’s a $1 guy or a reserve pick. Currently, he’s being drafted at 139th overall and as the 32nd outfielder, which is way too rich considering the uncertainties surround him. He’s being drafted as a high No. 3 outfielder in 15-team leagues. However, it’s not clear when he’ll come back and how productive he’ll be when he does return. Plus, if Nimmo is hitting decently, that could impact Conforto’s playing time, too. I’d rather own a bat without so many question marks surrounding him.
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