The Orioles are searching far and wide for people who can fill one of the corner outfield spots that were such a huge problem for the team this year. The latest rumor is that the Orioles have had discussions with the Reds about outfielder Jay Bruce. That's according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, who also adds there's "no momentum towards a deal."
Bruce is an eight-year MLB veteran. The Reds drafted him in the first round in 2005, one pick before the Orioles took Brandon Snyder. Bruce debuted fairly young, so he'll only be 29 next season. As far as what might interest the Orioles about him, that's easy enough to see. He's a left-handed hitting slugger who's been a corner outfielder for his whole career. Bruce has averaged 30 home runs per 162 games of his career. That is good.
Nothing ever comes easy, of course, and there are questions about Bruce. Though he batted a combined .257/.330/.482 over his first six seasons, things haven't been quite so good since then. In the 2014 campaign, Bruce posted only a .654 OPS with a sub-Markakian .373 slugging percentage. While Bruce rebounded in 2015, it was only somewhat. He only posted a .226 batting average with a .294 on-base percentage. The fact that he hit 26 home runs is worth only so much when weighed against those other numbers.
Does he have a better season than that still in him? Maybe he does, with a change of scenery. But if the Orioles acquired him, they'd be on the hook for the $13.5 million he's guaranteed for the final year of his contract. That includes a $1 million buyout if a $13 million team option for 2017 isn't exercised.
That's not exactly a bargain basement acquisition. If the Orioles are going to spend that much money, why do so when it would also cost them prospects? They could be much better served picking an outfielder off the free agent market, who would at least represent an answer for more than one or two seasons. That doesn't cost them any prospects, either. Free agents only cost money!
Not that the Orioles are in need of me to clue them in to this. That's probably why there's not any momentum to a deal like that. Who would Cincinnati want, and why should the Orioles pay that price for this solution when there are other potential answers out there?
It is possible that the O's view the short-term nature of Bruce's contract as a positive. A free agent who's really worth signing will probably be a significant commitment on the payroll for several years. As things stand right now, the Orioles have no one committed beyond the 2018 season and maybe they want to keep it that way with the possible exception of Chris Davis.
If this did prove to be the case, that would represent a disappointing outcome. Losers constantly fret about payroll flexibility. Winners take the flexibility they have and go and get players who will help the team win now and in the future.
Much like the recent discussion involving Neil Walker, although this is the rumor we have to talk about since it's the one that leaked right now, it's not very likely that this is Plan A or Plan B for the Orioles this offseason. But there's no harm in talking to the Reds and if things develop a certain way, they can revisit in another month or two. Should the Orioles take a run at free agents and fail to add any, maybe then Bruce would make sense. Until then, not so much.