Seattle Mariners “My Guy” Series: Outfielder Jay Bruce
Last month, we began our “My Guy” series so our staff could pick the one Mariners player on this year’s roster they are more confident in than the general consensus and tell you why.
After allowing most of the staff to pick their Mariners first, a lot of the good options were either taken or too obvious. Of course, Mitch Haniger is your guy, he is everybody’s guy. But today, I am here to tell you why Jay Bruce is going to have a major bounceback after a disappointing 2018 season.
What is funny about this is that, traditionally, I haven’t been a big Jay Bruce fan. Remember the rumors last off-season that the Mariners were interested in signing Bruce in free agency? Yeah, I actually tore that rumor to shreds. I didn’t like the idea at all in November of 2017. But now, in the late winter of 2019, I think the Mariners may have gotten an underappreciated asset in their Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz trade.
This wouldn’t be the first time I wrote about Bruce this winter, and now with the benefit of seeing him play in Spring Training, I like what I am seeing. Obviously, the spring stats are great. He hit .433/.485/.767 in Arizona. But the numbers don’t mean much. How he got those numbers does.
Watching Bruce, he has better patience at the plate than I remember. A handful of his hits were screaming line drives right up the middle. He is turning on baseball, punishing mistakes, and launching mammoth home runs. In short, Bruce looks nothing like the player in 2018 who slashed .223/.310/.370. Why?
Probably because he is healthy. Bruce missed games last year thanks to foot, ankle, and most notably a hip injury. Now, with a full off-season to heal, Bruce looks an awful lot like what he has been the previous 3 years: 150 games played average, with a .243/.309/.482 slash and an average of 32 HR and 96 RBI.
Bruce isn’t going to wow people with his final line, particularly with the OBP. His defense in the OF will be passable at best. But despite rarely playing much first base, he looked comfortable at the spot in spring and may be able to avoid embarrassing himself at the spot.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the looming likelihood that he is traded. And for the long-term growth of the team, should Bruce revert back to his old form, the Mariners probably should trade him.
However, one of the most consistent messages we have heard from Spring Training is the mentorship and veteran presence Bruce has brought to the Mariners, particularly with the young guys. Could this have value? Yes. Enough to decide to hang onto him for an entire season? Possibly.
Remember, Bruce has 2-years left on his contract. He has been traded twice before and the return was minimal. So could the market say no to Bruce and offer the Mariners nothing more than minor league depth? Yes. And if that is the case, perhaps the Mariners decide to let the veteran stick around a while.
At the end of the day, I think Jay Bruce will bring a lot of positivity to the 2019 Mariners, both with his bat and in the clubhouse. And at the end of the day, those can go a long way into making 2019 a season to remember.