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Perspectives: Jay Bruce A Yankee?

by Paul Semendinger

February 14, 2021

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Any reader of this blog who has read my articles knows that I have wanted the Yankees to get a big lefty bat to come off the bench and strike some fear into the opposition.

I have suggested numerous players.

I still think Jackie Bradley, Jr. would look great in Yankee pinstripes, and I think he’d be a huge star in New York, but that’s not happening.

I thought of lots of guys to fill this role, but I never thought of the old outfielder, the ancient slugger named Jay Bruce.

When I learned the Yankees signed him yesterday I was shocked. Jay Bruce? Really? That’s the guy?

***

Weeks ago I stated that the Yankees would make a big move by Valentine’s Day.

Well, they made a move.

I don’t know if this is a big move, and I thought the move would be a trade for a #2 starter, but, they made a move. They did. Absolutely.

I’ll take credit for being weeks ahead of the other writers everywhere.

(I’ll take what I can get.)

***

Jay Bruce?

Really?

Isn’t he like 38 or 39 years-old?

That’s the move?

***

At first I was completely underwhelmed by this news. But then I looked at the deal and the numbers and I came to the conclusion that I like it. I like the deal.

This isn’t what I was driving at when I stated that the Yankees needed a left-handed bat, but this is a low risk/high reward move that strengthens the Yankees’ bench and gives, them, finally, some left-handed pop.

I like this deal for a variety of reasons:

First, Bruce was signed to a minor league deal. If he makes the big club, he’ll earn all of $1.35M. That’s a great deal for the Yankees. He’ll make the team, of that I am sure. Long time readers know that I don’t care (at all) how much the Yankees pay their players, but since there a hard budget, getting a player of Bruce’s caliber for so little is a win for the Yankees. This will not prevent them from making other necessary moves (and there are still moves that need to be made).

Second, Jay Bruce is younger than I thought. A lot younger. I thought he was pushing 40-years-old. If you told me that Jay Bruce was 42-years-old, I would have believed you.

He’s not. He’ll be just 34-years-old this year.

A big lefty, only 34, and on the bench… yeah, I like that. I wouldn’t like seeing Jay Bruce as a starter, but that won’t be his role.

Bruce is still young enough that there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to hit, especially because he’ll be rested.

Jay Bruce won’t hit for a high average, but he has power, big strong lefty power. An opposing manager can’t just bring in one right-handed relief pitcher after another to face the Yankees now. The opposing manager will now have to consider that there is a chance that Jay Bruce might get a wack at that. (I’d put even money now, with Jay Bruce at the bat.)

Take Bruce’s six homers last year and project them over 162 games and he’d hit 30.

In 2019, he actually hit 26 bombs.

I would assume that his swing will be even more feared in Yankee Stadium.

Yeah, a lefty slugger. Imagine that. A lefty slugger on the Yankees.

Third, while no one will mistake Jay Bruce for a star outfielder, he’s not a disaster out there either. In 2019 and 2020, he put up a positive DWAR. In an emergency, he can play the outfield, at least adequately.

Fourth, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier (the Yankees’ starting outfielders and DH) have not been paragons of health the last few years. Jay Bruce provides some injury insurance if any of those guys go down. That’s important. It’s actually essential.

Jay Bruce will earn an addition $50K if he has 400 plate appearances. If he does, that means the Yankees in 2021 are in trouble. But over 200 at bats, or 300, he could be just what the Yankees need.

Fifth, this move makes Brett Gardner expendable. Now, read closely. I still would like Gardy to return – in a limited role. I think Garner will be better in 2021 than Mike Tauchman or Greg Allen. What this move does is help the Yankees in their negotiations with Gardner. The Yankees might now be able to get him back on a similar deal. With Gardy and Bruce on the bench, the Yankees will have power, speed, and necessary depth. They’ll be two lefty bats who should be fresh all year and ready (and able) to contribute.

***

Jay Bruce is a Yankee.

And I like it.

I’m as surprised as you.

#JayBruce

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