Baseball’s free-agent market has moved more slowly than the LIE at rush hour. But the Mets have been keeping tabs on Jay Bruce, a familiar face who would fill the need for a power bat capable of playing rightfield and first base.
According to a source, the sides have expressed mutual interest in a reunion.
Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana and Adam Lind have been among the first basemen linked to the Mets. But Bruce provides versatility and familiarity, having started last season with the Mets before his July trade to the Indians.
Bruce, 30, has been primarily a rightfielder, and he’d give the Mets a needed presence there in case Michael Conforto’s recovery from shoulder surgery hits a snag. Bruce also has played first base, where the Mets are targeting upgrades over Dominic Smith.
In his first 49 games following his big-league debut, Smith hit just .198 with nine homers. He also gained weight as the season entered its final weeks, triggering another round of questions about his conditioning. It’s possible that Smith, 22, will begin the season in the minor leagues, where some rival talent evaluators believe he could benefit from more seasoning at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Bruce hit .254 with 36 homers and 101 RBIs. At the time of his trade to the Indians for minor-league reliever Ryder Ryan, Bruce had hit 29 homers.
A reunion may make sense on another level. According to the source, Bruce developed a friendly relationship with Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who was hired as the Mets’ manager.
The Mets remain interested in bolstering their bullpen, targeting a group of arms that includes Brandon Morrow, Mike Minor, Addison Reed and Bryan Shaw, who played for Callaway with the Indians. Adding a second baseman is also on the to-do list, with their efforts focused more on the trade market. But a dearth of prospects has hampered their pursuit.
An industry source said the Mets’ relatively thin system has emerged as a barrier in early talks with the Tigers regarding second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Mets also have been linked with the Marlins’ Dee Gordon. But another industry source said the sides have not held substantive trade talks regarding the speedy second baseman.