Jay Bruce, We Hardly Knew Ye

You know, I had completely forgotten that Jay Bruce’s contract ran through 2020. So sure, I must have been, of his getting traded LONG before that would see the light of day.

The first part of the Big Mariners Step Back took place this past offseason, with Nelson Cruz being allowed to walk, with the trades of Cano & Diaz to the Mets, Paxton to the Yanks, and Segura to the Phillies (among other deals). There’s always more work to be done, but now that the Mariners have gone 12-35 since their 13-2 start, the second phase of the Big Mariners Step Back is ready to commence: jettison as many useless veterans as possible for as many high-ceiling prospects as possible.

When I say that, of course, I don’t really mean USELESS. Jay Bruce is useful! Just not for the purposes of what the Mariners are trying to accomplish in the short term. But, let’s be real, he’s also not great. He’s a 32 year old corner outfielder who hits for a low average and lots of dingers. With that skillset, and a long history of more competent play, Jay Bruce is earning a ridiculous amount of money (due in large part to how broken the free agency system is in Major League Baseball).

Well, now he’s the Phillies’ problem. Or, rather, he’s the Phillies’ fourth outfielder/bat off the bench. In return, the Mariners received A-ball prospect Jake Scheiner, a fourth round pick in 2017 who plays 3rd base, 1st base, and the corner outfield spots. He’ll be 24 in August and will join our high-A squad.

The upside is Scheiner could be our third baseman of the future. Given his age and his adequate defensive skills, that seems pretty ambitious. A more-realistic Best Case Scenario is that he turns into a utility player whose bat forces you to find a spot for him in most lineups.

The downside, of course, is limitless, but that’s the prospect game. You do the best with what you’re given.

Most encouraging, of course, is how we got Scheiner in the first place. Bruce’s deal has him earning $13 million this year and the next. You don’t get anything CLOSE to a prospect like Scheiner without swallowing a large chunk of cash, which is what the Mariners have done, sending along $18 million to make things palatable.

As a Mariners fan, I find that encouraging. There have always been empty gestures here and there of the M’s saying all the right things about wanting to win and get better, but more often than not, it boils down to the money. It has always felt like the Mariners cared more about turning a profit than they have putting a winning product on the field. If both of those things happened to dovetail, then all the better, but profits have always been the #1 priority.

I mean, hell, the most recent such scenario was the Cano deal. We could’ve eaten so much more money and gotten back a king’s ransom for a guy like Edwin Diaz (as it turns out, Jarred Kelenic looks like a superstar in the waiting, but you get the idea). $18 million isn’t chump change. Not for a team this bad, a team that’s REALLY going to struggle to fill out T-Mobile Park this summer.

Anyway, Jay Bruce was good to have around, and he appears to have done a lot of good with our young guys (particularly Daniel Vogelbach, who figures to see the lion’s share of ABs at the DH spot going forward). But, this was always the plan. And Bruce is only the beginning. Reports have already been floated out that the Fire Sale is open for business. Edwin Encarnacion figures to be the next domino to fall. Mike Leake hasn’t done much to help his cause, but he figures to get some sniffs. I have to believe Dee Gordon and Tim Beckham are also up for grabs.

After that, who knows?

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