If you look at the top of the National League batting charts, the two leading hitters in terms of batting average used to be employed by the New York Mets. Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, who now play for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, are key components on the two best teams in the NL. Each player represents a missed opportunity for the Mets, with Turner blossoming into a star after being non-tendered by General Manager Sandy Alderson and Murphy building on his postseason hot streak to turn into a completely different player. Alderson can get a pass on Turner, who no one saw morphing into a superstar, but deserves some blame for not making a more aggressive push to retain Murphy. Seeing what happened to those two makes the Mets’ current situation with Jay Bruce very interesting.
Kevin Kernan of the New York Post makes an intriguing argument that Bruce could become the next Turner or Murphy for the Mets. Bruce is a free agent after the season, and the Mets tried to shop him prior to the trade deadline only to receive minimal interest. That appeared to be an unusual phenomenon for a player having as strong a year as Bruce is, with the former Red batting .260 while leading the team in homers (29) and RBI’s (75). The Mets were desperate to get rid of Bruce over the winter but stuck with him after no one was interested. Bruce struggled when he first showed up in New York, battling a six week slump that saw him get pinch hit for by the immortal Eric Campbell in a big spot last September. That hasn’t been the case this season as Bruce has easily become the Mets’ most productive hitter, creating another dilemma for Alderson.
The Mets are reportedly weighing whether or not to bring Bruce back for next season, with the idea of keeping him until the end of the year and extending him a qualifying offer in play. Michael Conforto’s surprisingly good defense in center has made the front office confident that he could play there for the next few years, opening right field for Bruce. Bruce is very good in the clubhouse as well, which can’t be understated on a team that will have a lot of young players next season. You can make a very strong argument that keeping Bruce is essential for the Mets offensively since they will be relying on youngsters like Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario in key positions, making a dependable veteran like Bruce very desirable.
Bruce is a different type of commodity than Turner and Murphy were when the Mets let them go. Turner was a completely unproven utility man while Murphy was a solid .290 hitter who developed some power in the second half of 2015. Bruce is what he is, a solid slugger who is a safe bet for 30 homers and close to 100 RBI’s every year, albeit a tad one-dimensional. The market should be solid for Bruce as teams chase power, particularly when the only cost for Bruce would be money and not prospects. Bruce has certainly made the choice for Alderson much more difficult, and its fair to wonder if the successes of Turner and Murphy will impact the team’s pursuit of Bruce.