Jay Bruce tested the free-agent waters, but the three-time All-Star found comfort in the familiarity of the Mets. The right fielder said his previous experience playing for the team and new manager Mickey Callaway and the belief that there is “unfinished business” with the Mets made coming back to Flushing the right choice for him.
“I feel we’re a healthy season away from being right in the thick of it,” Bruce said Wednesday after a press conference at Citi Field. “That opportunity is a huge reason I came back. To be able to legitimately you’re going to be able to contend, to win a World Series in a place like NY is not something everybody has the chance to do.”
Bruce got a taste of that in 2017 with Cleveland. In five games during American League Division Series with Cleveland, Bruce went 5-18 with one double, two home runs and four RBI.
Over 153 career games with the Mets after being acquired at the trade deadline in 2016 from Cincinnati, Bruce batted .245 with 25 doubles, 37 home runs and 94 RBI; his 37 homers and 94 RBI in that time led the team.
Bruce was reintroduced Wednesday at a press conference at Citi Field. The organization brought back the veteran right fielder for his durability, presence and versatility, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said when announcing the three-year, $ 39 million deal.
While the Mets asked Bruce to play some first base last season, the 30-year-old said that was not much of the discussion before this deal. With the Mets having agreed to a deal with five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, it’s pretty likely Bruce will not have to play first this season.
Instead, he is insurance in the lineup for Michael Conforto, who is coming off shoulder surgery. Alderson said Wednesday that the team is not expecting Conforto to be back until May 1.
“Everything is going as planned. There have been no setbacks, but his schedule is such I don’t expect him back until the first of May,” Alderson said. “Any updates will be about the time we open camp. Right now I don’t expect him to ready for Opening Day.”
So the Mets’ Opening Day outfield is likely Yoenis Cespedes in left, Juan Lagares in center and Bruce in right. Most likely Brandon Nimmo, who has been mentioned in a trade rumors this winter, will be the backup outfielder. Alderson said Wednesday they like Nimmo’s potential.
“Nimmo is an interesting guy. He had an almost .800 OPS last year in limited playing time. He’s shown a real ability to come off the bench and have good at-bats for us,” Alderson said.
“He plays with energy and enthusiasm. He’s kind of the poster boy for the offense we and other people are trying to create. Every player has some limitations, but Brandon is a player we like and I think a player that a lot of other teams like as well,” Alderson added. “We’re happy we still have him.”