As baseball’s trade deadline approaches, seemingly crazier trade rumors crop up with each passing hour. How crazy? Crazy like one reporter saying the Nationals would trade Lucas Giolito - the #4 prospect in baseball - to the Yankees for Andrew Miller, and another reporter saying that trade won’t happen because it’s not enough of a return for the Yankees. That’s crazy!
The Orioles don’t have anything crazy like that going on. What they do have is a rumor from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that the Orioles have “been talking with the Reds” regarding outfielder Jay Bruce. What? OK, that’s pretty crazy too, unless Bruce is suddenly a pitcher.
Crasnick goes on to note that the O’s are more focused on pitching. That’s no surprise to anyone who’s watched the Orioles rotation this year. But as you look at the deals being made for the pitchers who are being traded, as well as the woeful state of the Orioles farm system, maybe they just can’t get a pitcher. Maybe they have to try to improve another area of the team and hope for the best.
It’s not the first time that the Orioles have been linked to Bruce. They were said to be talking to the Reds about Bruce back in November, and Bruce was also considered to be an option in February, when the Orioles targeted and almost signed Dexter Fowler (sigh) and then signed Pedro Alvarez after the Fowler thing didn’t happen.
Both of those times, I wrote about not wanting Bruce because he wasn’t very good in 2014 and was still below league average even while rebounding somewhat in 2015.
As I often say, remember that I know even less than Jon Snow. Bruce rebounded in a big way at age 29 in the 2016 season. In the season to date, he’s batting .271/.323/.572. It’s the slugging percentage that really catches your eye as Bruce has slugged 25 home runs already. Last year he managed only 26 across the whole season.
Bruce is making $12.5 million this season and has a $1 million buyout on a $13 million team option for next year. If he’s going to hit 25 home runs by the end of July, that’s a fair price to pay, at least in money. Whether the prospect cost is something the Orioles could or should pay is always another story.
It probably won’t happen anyway. There’s a reason why I always say, “Probably nothing will happen.” It usually won’t! The Reds might trade Bruce to another team or just not trade him before the deadline. The Dodgers and Nationals are also in the picture on Bruce, Crasnick reported.
Even if the Orioles could trade for Bruce, where would they fit him in? The most obvious answer seems to be that he’d go in Alvarez’s spot in the lineup and on the roster. Alvarez has been OK after a bad April/May but he still has to be hidden against lefty pitchers. Bruce, at least, has hit for a .815 OPS against LHP.
Bruce is like Alvarez in that he should probably never see the field. If you think that Mark Trumbo is a bad outfielder, you’re not wrong, but consider this. As measured by the Defensive Runs Saved stat, Trumbo has been worth -3 runs. Bruce, as a right fielder this season, is worth -12 runs.
Now, one of those sayings is you have to use three years of defensive data. Bruce was worth -6 runs defensively in 2014, nearly evened out by a +5 in 2015. So what’s that tell us? Maybe nothing at all.
So, don’t expect anything to happen. It’s still interesting to know it’s something the two teams apparently have discussed.