One year later, the New York Mets finally landed All-Star outfielder Jay Bruce to boost a struggling lineup.
Minutes before Monday’s trade deadline, the third-place Mets obtained Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds for young infielder Dilson Herrera and minor league left-hander Max Wotell.
The 29-year-old Bruce was hitting .265 with 25 homers and a National League-leading 80 RBIs. He made the NL All-Star team for the third time.
“This was an opportunity to deal from a position of relative strength in the system to acquire some offence that we felt we needed,” general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Bruce joins a crowded outfield that includes two other left-handed hitters in Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto. Alderson acknowledged that Bruce is “not an absolute perfect fit for us.”
“We start with the need for offence and work from there,” the GM said.
Bruce, however, is under team control next season and does provide another type of protection for Cespedes, because the Cuban star can opt out of his contract and become a free agent again after this year’s World Series.
“We would not have done the deal without the extra year of control,” Alderson said. “We were not looking for a rental player, certainly not looking to give up the kind of talent we did for the next two months.”
Bruce homered in five straight games in late July, a career best. A downside has been his career-long penchant for following a torrid streak with an incredibly cold one.
Bruce has a .249 career average with 233 homers in nine major league seasons. He is earning $12.5 million this year, and his contract includes a $13 million team option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
Bruce is expected to arrive Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said.
New York also re-acquired lefty Jon Niese from Pittsburgh for reliever Antonio Bastardo. Niese will work out of the bullpen at first but also gives the Mets an experienced starter who could fill in for a rotation missing injured Matt Harvey and rehabbing Zack Wheeler.
Herrera, 22, was once regarded as the Mets’ future second baseman. He made his major league debut in 2014 and hit .215 over 49 big league games in the ’14 and ’15 seasons. He was batting .276 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs this year at Triple-A Las Vegas.
“We liked Dilson very much, no question about that,” Alderson said. “It’s not that our estimation of Dilson has gone down, we realize we have some other options and seem to be well-covered there.”
Traded from the Mets to Pittsburgh last December for second baseman Neil Walker, Niese struggled during his time with the Pirates. He went 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA and was moved to the bullpen earlier this month.
The 29-year-old Niese is making $9 million in the final season of a deal he signed with the Mets in March 2012, a contract that includes a $10 million team option for 2017 with a $500,000 buyout.
Bastardo, who went 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 2015 with Pittsburgh, posted a 4.74 ERA in 41 appearances for the Mets. Bastardo agreed to a $12 million, two-year deal with New York in January and is owed $6.5 million in 2017.