When news broke Wednesday night that the Mets had traded slugging first baseman/outfielder Jay Bruce to the Indians, the deal seemed to make sense for New York’s NL club. The Mets are out of the playoff race, and with Bruce a free agent after this season it was sensible to offload him for someone who could help the team down the road, while clearing playing time for youngsters Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith. Maybe the Mets could even save a few bucks on what’s left of Bruce’s contract.
Then we learned what the Mets had gotten in return for the guy who has been probably their second best player in 2017: Ryder Ryan, a 22-year-old pitcher drafted in the 30th round in 2016, who has a 4.79 ERA this season in rookie ball. In other words, they got almost nothing.
Why did the Mets trade one of their best hitters for a guy with barely a prayer of reaching the Majors? Money, money, money. Bruce is still owed nearly $5 million dollars on the $13 million he’ll make in 2017, and Cleveland generously offered to take on all of it. The Mets reportedly turned down a stronger offer from the Yankees because their crosstown rival wouldn’t pay Bruce’s full salary, demonstrating that their objective here was not to better their team but to save a few bucks.
The frugality of Mets owner Fred Wilpon strikes again.
Ever since the Wilpon family, due mostly to their own naïveté, lost millions as part of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, the Mets have been conservative in free agency and skittish at the trade deadline. They’ve sought the cheaper option at every turn and opened their wallets only when absolutely necessary. Playing in the largest media market in America, they have made exactly one big-ticket free agent signing this decade, Yoenis Cespedes, while running payrolls that hovered around league average.
Now they have given up a player who leads their team in home runs and RBIs, ranks second in WAR and places third in slugging and OPS in exchange for some savings. They could have dealt Bruce for a real prospect or two. They could have held onto him and reaped a compensatory draft pick when he left in the offseason. Instead, they sold him off to save a few bucks.
Sorry, Mets fans, but your team has made clear that building a good baseball team is not its top priority. Good luck in free agency.