With Jay Bruce ready to return to the fold on a three-year, $39-million contract, the Mets on Thursday continued to look for an upgrade at second base.
Bruce’s deal, which was agreed to on Wednesday, will become official once the 30-year-old passes a physical. The contract was structured to help the Mets with their 2018 payroll: Bruce will earn $10 million this season and $14.5 million a year in 2019 and 2020.
So the Mets still have a few million dollars to throw around if they wish. And they appear to want to add to their unfinished club a month before spring training.
The Mets almost added Jason Kipnis, Bruce’s former Cleveland Indians teammate, to fill their hole at second base. The teams were closing in on a trade, as first reported by FanRag Sports, but were unable to reach agreement on how much the Mets would pay of the $30.5 million owed to Kipnis over the next two seasons. That doesn’t mean the clubs can’t close the gap, though.
Kipnis, 30, lost his second-base job last season and played centerfield in the Division Series against the Yankees. The Indians have said he will return to second base this season — if he’s not traded first.
Kipnis hit .232 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs in 90 games last year in one of his worst professional seasons. In 2016, he hit .275 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. He is seen as a good clubhouse guy, as is Bruce.
The Mets do have other options for second base, including a reunion with free agent Jose Reyes, who is known to pine for a return to Flushing.
Another possible reunion: Neil Walker, also a free agent. The Mets also have spoken to the Pirates about utilityman Josh Harrison, but that was in concert with talks about outfielder Andrew McCutchen. With Bruce returning, the Mets don’t need another expensive outfielder.
The Mets have Asdrubal Cabrera signed and slated to play third base (assuming David Wright is unable to make a comeback from his various injuries). They also have Wilmer Flores as insurance at every infield position.
Cabrera also could get shifted to second if the Mets decide it’s better to dip into the third-base market. But that market could be too rich for their blood.
Todd Frazier, who finished 2017 with the Yankees, is a free agent. So is Mike Moustakas, who could command a contract in excess of $100 million.
If Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets has proved anything, it’s that the general manager is willing to be patient even when the team is getting criticized for an apparent aversion to spending.
Bruce is a good example of Alderson’s patience paying off. Bruce started the offseason looking for more than three years and targeted the Giants and Astros as possible destinations. But when the offers didn’t pour in — as they haven’t for most of the big-name free agents in this slow-moving offseason — the Mets swooped in and Bruce quickly agreed to terms.
Now Alderson hopes for a similar scenario with one of his second-base options.