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MLB free agency: Mets, Jay Bruce have mutual interest

A reunion between the Mets and Jay Bruce is possible, though a position change would likely be involved.

MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that New York dealt him to the Indians this past August, the Mets and Jay Bruce apparently have mutual interest in a reunion, as Marc Carig of Newsday reported Thursday.

While conventional wisdom might lead one to believe that the Mets would plug Bruce back in at his natural position in right field and shift Michael Conforto back to center, Carig writes that Bruce could be in line to shift to first base if he ultimately decides to re-sign with the Mets. The Mets apparently have some concerns about starting Dominic Smith, who made his big-league debut in August, at first in 2018. Bruce, who has 15 games of big-league experience at first, would arm the Mets’ lineup with a much-needed veteran bat, and considering the fact that he’s hit at least 25 homers in seven of the past eight seasons, he’d provide some substantial power.

While Smith went into the season as the Mets’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and was widely regarded as one of the top first base prospects in baseball, he struggled in 183 big-league plate appearances after being called up on August 11, posting a .198/.262/.395 slash line, though he did hit nine homers. Carig writes that the Mets have questions about his conditioning—he’s listed at 6-foot and 239 pounds but reportedly gained weight after reaching the majors—and they may opt to start him at Triple-A rather than handing him the big-league starting job.

It’s worth noting that even if the Mets sign Bruce with the idea of him being their primary first baseman in 2018, he may have to begin the year in right field if Conforto’s recovery from shoulder surgery moves slower than expected. And if Smith ends up forcing the organization’s hand and earning the everyday first base job, then Bruce could be shifted back to right with Conforto going to center, a position where the he played 43 games in 2017 and at which the Mets currently have a gaping hole.

Ultimately, Bruce seems likely to get a multi-year deal with an eight-figure AAV, so he’s probably not the best fit for New York’s needs unless they’ve just totally lost faith in Smith. Guys like Mike Napoli, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Mark Reynolds, and old friend Lucas Duda will likely be willing to accept affordable one-year deals and would fit better as bridge guys to Smith than Bruce would.