Jay Bruce emerged as a 21-year-old rookie in early 2008, and he came up to the big leagues with tons of hype and manned center field, flanked by Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adam Dunn. His first career home run was a walk-off against Atlanta, and of course no one will ever forget this. Chills.
When he was traded to the Mets last year, Reds fans who longed for the past and still didn’t know what a rebuild was and why the Reds needed to do it began to feel like their best memories were slipping away. It wasn’t as heavy as Tony Perez to the Montreal Expos after repeating in ’76, but some fans were salty about it.
The Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier trades in December of 2015 continued the process that started with Johnny Cueto going to the Royals in July of that year, but the Bruce trade had a different feel to the rebuild. And of course Reds Country went berserk after DatDudeBP was dealt to the Braves earlier this year. (Quite frankly, of all those trades, Phillips’s ticket out of town should have been the first. But that 10-years/5-years rule man…)
Those weren’t the only trades throughout this rebuild: Mike Leake and Mat Latos were dealt along with a few others. Obviously, the key after a trade is to find someone to replace the player who was dealt. For our boys in Red, no one has matched Cueto, but Eugenio Suarez is filling in nicely at third, Raisel Iglesias has been solid out of the bullpen and the Jose Peraza/Scooter Gennett combo at second base has worked. The Reds certainly haven’t lost any value on defense, which has been superb this year.
Added to that, Scott Schebler appears to be a duplicate of the Beaumont Bomber so far in 2017. It’s a sample size of just 80+ games, but with the help of Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs, let’s take a look.
Jay Bruce, 1st half 2017 stats
· .872 OPS, 126 OPS+
· 33 BB, 77 SO, 23 HR, 59 RBI
· 2.1 WAR, .365 wOBA, 128 wRC+
· 4 DRS
· 2017 salary: $13 million
· Free agent after 2017 season
· Age: 30
Scott Schebler, 1st half 2017 stats
· .856 OPS, 118 OPS+
· 25 BB, 68 SO, 22 HR, 44 RBI
· 1.5 WAR, .356 wOBA, 117 wRC+
· 4 DRS
· 2017 salary: $540,000 (arbitration eligible in 2020)
· Free agent after the 2022 season
· Age: 26
Not only is Schebler producing at near-Jay-Bruce levels, he is also younger, cheaper and locked up for more years.
The real question is, who would you rather have between the two right now in the midst of this rebuild? If the Reds hadn’t dealt Bruce last year, the club would be shopping him as we speak (if the option for 2017 was picked up), and the return would be significantly less than Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.
While the Reds are still waiting to see if Herrera’s bat can develop in Louisville and as Wotell has struggled of late in Billings, it seems that the most beneficial part about trading Bruce came in the three-team deal when Frazier went to the White Sox and Schebler came over from the Dodgers. He took over in right field last year and made his presence known.
There is still a lot up in the air concerning the future of the Reds outfield, though.
· Can Billy Hamilton be the high-OBP-top-of-the-order-bat the team needs?
· If not, and if/when Winker plays every day, could Schebler take over in CF?
· And how does Adam Duvall fit in with the future plans of the team?
· Will he and/or Schebler (and eek…possibly Hamilton) be traded for more prospects?
So many questions.
Almost one year later, trading the home-grown Bruce seems to not be as devastating as it once did, even if there is a section of Reds Country that is nostalgic and didn’t want to see him go along with the self-proclaimed “Mr. Cincinnati” this past offseason. Whether or not Schebler is part of the long-term plans remains to be seen, but for now, he is nearly equating the production of the player he replaced.
The truth is that the rebuild has been beneficial to the outlook of this team’s future, and hopefully by now fans realize that parting ways with certain players has been essential to the process of forming a squad that will one day still be playing baseball when kids are picking out Halloween costumes for trick-or-treating.