It’s looking more likely that Jay Bruce will be the Mets’ starting rightfielder on Opening Day April 3 against the Braves.
With the Mets so far unable to find a trade partner for the slugging outfielder, Bruce likely will report to Port St. Lucie, Florida, next month to begin spring training. He’ll join Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares in a crowded outfield.
According to a New York Post report, the Mets have informed Bruce that they anticipate having him as their rightfielder to start the season. A person close to Bruce on Tuesday night told Newsday, “I believe that he will be with the team on Opening Day.”
The Mets, who acquired Bruce from the Reds last season at the trade deadline, picked up his $13-million contract option after the season as a hedge in case they were unable to re-sign Cespedes. When Cespedes agreed to a four-year, $110-million contract, general manager Sandy Alderson turned his attention to flipping Bruce for some relief help, prospects and/or payroll relief.
But a deal has not come across Alderson’s desk that he is willing to make. That could change, but for now the Mets are going into spring training with the idea that Cespedes and Bruce will man the corner outfield spots. Granderson will be the primary option in center with Lagares as his righthanded platoon partner.
What does this mean for Conforto? Good question. The Mets could try him at first base in case Lucas Duda’s back condition flares up, or the talented Conforto could open the season in the minors while the Mets sort out what kind of team they have with Bruce in right.
Bruce was a flop after the Mets picked him up on Aug. 1. He hit .219 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. His final season numbers of 33 home runs and 99 RBIs were impressive, but most of that damage took place with the Reds. He also didn’t seem all that comfortable in New York.
With the Mets seemingly unable to shed Bruce’s salary, all eyes will focus on their plans for the bullpen. Closer Jeurys Familia is likely facing a suspension from Major League Baseball after his arrest on domestic violence charges, even though the charges were dismissed.
There are still relievers on the free-agent market such as 2016 Mets Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas and veterans Joe Blanton and Boone Logan. But the Mets may not have the payroll flexibility to add another big or even medium-sized salary.