Jay Bruce will be in town until at least through 2016, with a 2017 option potentially taking him into his age 30 season. Now that he'll be a team fixture through his prime years, first things first: a nickname. All long-tenured Reds have them. Noodles. Big Klu. Charlie Hustle. Junior. (What did we call Barry Larkin? I'll put him down for "SkyLarkin'.") There's been no consensus on a term of endearment yet for Bruce, though some candidates have emerged:
- The Boss
- Bruce Almighty
The following nicknames have not been suggested:
- Big Bruce-r
- The Bruce of the System
- The Motley Bru
Any ideas? Red Reporter is respected as a meme-factory and we must not lay down on this one. Without a nickname in place by spring training, there may be a serious crisis of confidence in my administration.
I'd also like to take this space to formally recognize the expert rumor-mongering of "-ManBearPig." (I'm pretty sure that sentence is better-suited for a British sci-fi.) At 3:05 Eastern yesterday, this benevolent three species genetic hybrid told us:
Bruce and the Reds have agreed to a 6 year deal for $51 million with an $11 mil option for the 7th year and are going to be announcing it soon.
I remember thinking to myself, "My, what a specific fake rumor." The details of the deal reached ESPN about 9 hours later - for some reason - while I was slumbering. Sidebar: Do we really need the 24-hour sports news cycle? We do? OK, just making sure. So bravo, ManBearPig. We salute you. Now everything you say is true. And every rumor you see on this website is to be regarded as Gospel truth.
On to the extension. Red Reporters unanimously approve. And Fangraphs has signaled its qualified gangs-away. Adjusting for the cost-control through arbitration years and the increase in the cost of wins, FG estimates that the Reds are paying Bruce as a "3.5 win player." I would wager to guess that most of us believe Bruce has the ability to exceed this threshold each year of the contract, especially given the points he's spotted by his excellent defense - which, like speed and RUST, never sleeps. The deal looks better, from a dollar-valued wins perspective, if you give the Reds credit for cultivating in-house talent, rather than ending up with a free agent from the open market. Pre-arbitration wins may be cheaper, but if you've gotten to the point where you team control over a player who could potentially make nine figures as a free agent, you've done something right.
Projecting a player like Bruce - or any player - can be treacherous. No one purports to know, on an individual player level, what the next season holds. Jay's 2010 could be his ceiling, floor or beautiful, $51M granite counter-top. But taking past player performance and historical precedent, thenweighing it against the current trajectory an observer sees the player taking makes for interesting speculation. Bruce's similarity scores on Baseball Reference are food for thought on possible futures: Justin Upton appears as a "similar batter," without controlling for age, and he's as good a peer comp as any. Now that they've both signed similar contracts, we basically have a controlled study of two slick-fielding RFers, similar in age, with boundless potential.
"Similar Batters though 23" (Does not address defense, on which Jay compares favorably in most any RF comp):
1. Willie Horton: I hope they mean Willie Horton the baseball player, because the other one is "an American convicted felon who, while serving a life sentence for murder, without the possibility of parole, was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts weekend furlough program. He did not return from his furlough, and ultimately he committed assault, armed robbery and rape" (Wikipedia). He was also featured in an attack ad that did in the Dukakis campaign. No one would be happy with this outcome for Jay.
4. Barry Bonds: Even in a parallel universe where Bonds doesn't take steroids, this is probably still Bruce's absolute ceiling. The Pirates Era Bonds was a 25-35 HR threat and started reaching base 40% of the time at age 25. He's not going to steal bases, but Jay could develop 35+ HR power in the second half of his contract as players of his ilk often do in their mid to late 20s, while bringing the patience and respect from pitchers along with it. This could translate to higher walk rates. And Bruce's MLB splits against lefties have already shown signs of permanently eroding.
7. Adam Dunn: Does Jay have the power to consistently hit 40 home runs and the plate vision to complement it? Taking Adam Dunn's power numbers with Bruce's defense would be a beautiful dream. If Bruce can continue to hit to all fields, while opening up his home run power to all fields, he would be the player nearly everyone could love - a slugger who does everything but steal bases.
9. Harold Baines: Here's what happens if Bruce's power doesn't develop and last year becomes the benchmark . A good career, but not great. I'm biased, but if Bruce stays healthy, these kind of rate stats could be his floor through the life of the contract.