After weeks of speculation, days of deadline intrigue and a last-second plot twist, Cincinnati finally dealt hot-hitting right fielder Jay Bruce to the New York Mets on Monday in what, at first glance anyway, appears to be a decent deal for the Reds.
Dilson Herrera, a 22-year-old infielder from Bolivia, will be making his way from the Big Apple to Great American Ball Park. The Reds also acquired minor league pitcher Max Wotell for the 29-year-old Bruce, who leads the National League in RBI with 80.
For much of Monday, it appeared the Reds would acquire 23-year-old outfielder Brandon Nimmo, a first-round Mets selection with the 13th overall pick in 2013. Nimmo was batting just .236 in 60 plate appearances with the major league club this season. But the East Cheyenne, Wyoming native has hit .318 in 104 games over the last two seasons at Triple-A Las Vegas, including .336 in 325 at-bats this season.
Alas, apparently a torn foot tendon Nimmo suffered in January caused the Reds to have some last-minute doubts. So New York offered Herrera, who hit just .211 in 31 games with the Mets last season, but is considered one of the better prospects in the organization. Herrera is hitting .276 with a .327 on-base percentage at Triple-A Las Vegas. He has 22 doubles and has driven in 55 runs in 86 games.
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The Mets acquired Herrera in a 2013 deal with Pittsburgh that involved former Reds outfielder Marlon Byrd. Last year, ESPN’s Buster Olney predicted Herrera would be a future All-Star. “I can tell you, having talked with people on other teams, they think Herrera is a legitimate, big-time player,” Olney said.
Herrera was ranked as the Mets’ No. 4 prospect after the 2014 season. He hit .220 in 18 games that year with New York. He’s hit .215 in 49 games with the Mets over 2014-15. He did go 1-for-2 with an RBI in this year’s Futures Game during All-Star Game fesitivies in San Diego.
Wotell is a 19-year-old left-hander from Boca Raton, Florida who was a third-round pick in the 2015 draft by the Mets. Wotell is 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA for Kingsport in the Applachian League this season. He has struck out 31 batters in 29.2 innings.
For Reds’ fans, it’s tough to see Bruce go, especially when the Texas native had rejuvenated his career. After hitting .217 in 2014 and .226 in 2015, Bruce is batting .265 in 402 plate appearances this season. His 25 homers are tied for fourth in the National League, two behind NL-leader Trevor Story of Colorado. His .875 OPS is a career-high, topping his .846 in 2010. Bruce hit a career-high 34 homers in 2012 and drove in a career-high 109 in 2013.
Alas, Bruce was scheduled to make $13 million on a club option for 2017, with a $1 million buyout. He would be a free agent in 2018. In the midst of a rebuilding project, it made little sense for the Reds to keep the popular outfielder or chance losing him in ’18 with nothing in return.
Trailing Washington by 6.5 games in the East heading into Monday’s games, New York is 2.5 games out of the second NL wild card spot. And the Mets needed a bat. Manager Terry Collins’ team is hitting just .206, last in the majors, with runners in scoring position. Bruce alone is hitting .360 with RISP.
According to Elias, Bruce is the first player to be traded while leading the league in RBI since the stat became official in 1920.
Meanwhile, Herrera will be under the Reds’ control for several years. His acquisition may mean that the Reds will utilize Jose Peraza as an outfielder in the future. The 22-year-old Peraza would join 22-year-old Jesse Winker, 24-year-old Kyle Waldrop, 25-year-old Billy Hamilton, 25-year-old Scott Schebler and 27-year-old Adam Duvall, an NL All-Star who has hit 25 homers with the big club this season.
Winker is hitting .286 with a .376 OBP in his first season at Louisville. After hitting just .188 in 64 at-bats with the Reds early in the season, Schebler is batting .311 at Louisville with 13 homers and 43 RBI in 75 games. He was named the International League’s Player of the Month for July.
Or the Reds could end up trading 30-year-old Zack Cozart in the off-season, which would open the door for Peraza to play shortstop, which was considered his natural position in the minor leagues.
Picking up Herrera also puts more pressure on the Reds to cut ties with Brandon Phillips, the veteran who is hitting .264 but with just six homers and 37 RBI. Hard to understand why a rebuilding club continues to start a 35-year-old when younger players could be gaining experience.
By the way, the Mets visit Great American Ball Park to play the Reds on Sept. 5-7.
Jay Bruce career stats with Reds