One time Rookie of the Year, two-time Silver Slugger Award Winner, and three-time All-Star Jay Bruce has fit right into the Indians lineup since being added via trade with the New York Mets on August 9th. Over his first 10 games with the team, Bruce has put up numbers better than anyone could have reasonably expected from the left-handed outfielder.
Let’s be honest, no Indians fan would want to see Michael Brantlety on the DL again, but that injury is probably what pushed the Tribe to pull the trigger on the Bruce trade. Unfortunately the down side is Brantley is on his second stint on the DL this year with a sprained ankle and is reportedly still spending most of his time in a walking boot. Indians ownership, which many fans have complained are hesitant to open their checkbooks, have done a great job adding talent. Around the trade deadline over the last two seasons, and last off-season the Dolans have definitely not been afraid to spend with the club in serious contention. In the last 12 months the team has added high-priced talent including Andrew Miller, Edwin Encarnacion and now Jay Bruce.
One thing that has most likely helped Bruce to get off to such a good start is that he has spent his entire career in the National League. Most pitchers either have either never seen Bruce or have had limited exposure so, being the talented hitter that he is, he should be able to take advantage of American League pitching for the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the Indians will be able to sign Bruce to a new contract after this season. After just giving Edwin Encarnacion a 3 year/$60,000,000 contract this past off-season, the mid-market Indians will have a next to impossible time paying Bruce ($13,000,000 this season) when they are sitting in the bottom third of attendance. It is also important to note that Carlos Santana, who made $12,000,000 this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season as well, and it is likely that the Indians will want to try to re-sign their home-grown DH first. With all of the young talent in the outfield would the Indians try to keep Bruce and let Santana go? Santana is a year older, but their numbers are very similar considering Bruce has two more years of experience. Without a doubt, general manager Mike Chernoff will have some important decisions to make this off-season.
No matter what happens next season, the important thing is the boost that adding Bruce has brought to the Indians. On the Tribe’s longest road trip of the year, the good guys went 8-3 and did exactly what they needed to do, which is win series’ going 3-1 vs. the Rays, 1-0 vs. the Red Sox, 2-1 vs. the Twins and 2-1 vs. the Royals. With their success against the Royals and Twins, the Tribe was able to push the division lead to 5 full games over Minnesota and 6.5 over Kansas City.
The addition of Bruce to the lineup has helped Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion by adding another threat and not allowing opposing pitchers to work around the Indians’ sluggers. On the road trip, Encarnacion hit seven home runs, knocked in eight runs, walked seven times, and raised his batting average five points. Carlos Santana had four multi-hit games, scored nine runs, knocked in five, walked eight times, and added 10 points to his batting average. Lonnie Chisenhall should be returning in the next week after paternity leave and a few more games in Columbus which will also help to bolster the Indians’ already formidable offense.