With Major League Baseball’s Trading Deadline less than two weeks away, many are clamoring for the Indians to make a move. A common theme has been a need for bullpen help, while others feel that a replacement for the injured Yan Gomes is needed. One player who has been mentioned in connection with the Indians, who may NOT be a good fit, is Cincinnati Reds rightfielder Jay Bruce.
At first, this may seem a bit surprising. After all, Bruce is coming off the third All-Star appearance of his career. He’s batting a respectable .265 with an impressive OPS of .850, a number that would be a career high for a full season. The Indians have played well on offense, but the general perception is that they could use another bat. So what’s the problem?
The first problem, surprisingly, is production. While Bruce has always had good power, he’s been a streaky hitter throughout his career, with a below average on-base percentage of .319. He’s also an atrocious fielder, so much so that Bruce sports a WAR of just 0.2 this season. Considering he makes $12.5 million this season and $13 million on a team option for next season, one would hope Bruce would have a more significant impact on actually winning games.
There’s also the issue of the bullpen. Fairly productive earlier in the season, the Indians’ bullpen has struggled mightily since the team’s 14-game winning streak came to an end. The Indians had to release Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny simply because they needed fresh arms, but those fresh arms have had no impact. If the Tribe is in a tight game and Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw don’t have it that night, then the team is in big trouble. If the Indians are going to get to the postseason and make an impact, they need to bolster their bullpen. It is by far their greatest need.
Finally, there’s the simple fact that the outfield has been far more productive than anyone could have imagined before the start of the season. Lonnie Chisenhall is a far better fielder than Bruce, and is hitting batting over .300 on his way to a WAR of 1.4. Tyler Naquin has an OPS of .969 and is in the running for American League Rookie of the Year. Jose Ramirez has cooled off a bit after a hot start, but is still one of the best utility men in the league. Even the old man of the group, Rajai Davis, is hitting a respectable .260 and has stolen 24 bases. Even first base and designated hitter are well manned by Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, at this point, another bat would be nice for the Indians, but it’s not nearly the need most thought it would be.
The Cleveland Indians have made summer even more fun for their fans. They’ve played beyond expectations on the field, and have been as fun of a group to root for as any Tribe team in recent memory. They’re not a perfect team, and likely need to make some moves to have a real chance at a World Series run, but Jay Bruce is not the answer to any real question about this team.