Should the Red Sox Sign Jay Bruce Over J.D. Martinez?
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It isn’t exactly news that the Boston Red Sox underperformed when it came to home runs last season.
The Red Sox had the least amount of home runs in the American League last season with 168, while players like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez hit a combined total of 156 home runs.
Most fans look to Martinez to be the next power bat for the Red Sox, but as I stated in my article about the pros and cons of Martinez, he may not be the best fit for the team. But if Martinez won’t be the power bat for the Red Sox, who will?
Jay Bruce, a 30-year-old right fielder, could be a viable option for the Red Sox to pursue.
The southpaw-veteran just finished his 10th season in the MLB with the Cleveland Indians and is now a free agent. Bruce had a solid year, hitting 36 home runs, but sporting an average triple slash of .254/.324/.508. He will be a much cheaper alternative to Martinez because of his low batting average and the fact he did not hit 40+ home runs.
At this point, most people know that Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, is trying to get him a big contract this offseason. Boras is looking for a six or seven-year contract for at least $200 million.
However, Bruce is looking for a much more modest four or five-year contract for $80-$90 million. Bruce has also stated that he would “be thrilled,” to sign with the San Francisco Giants, but it is unknown if he would sign with the Red Sox as the team has never been an option for him.
While Martinez had the best season of his career last year, his biggest problem is that he has only had one other season where he hit at least 30 home runs. Although Bruce’s 36 home runs this year fell short of Martinez’s total, he has hit at least 30 home runs in five of his last seven seasons.
Martinez has only hit 152 home runs in his seven seasons in the MLB, which is 57 fewer than Bruce hit in his last seven seasons. It’s also important to keep in mind that those two seasons where Bruce hit under 30 home runs were in 2014 and 2015. This drop in performance stems from the fact he underwent knee surgery in the middle of the 2014 season and the 2015 season was his first full season after the surgery. In those seven years, he also had five seasons with 97 RBIs or more.
However, Bruce is far from a perfect player.
While he may consistently hit home runs, Bruce is a strikeout machine. In his last five seasons Bruce has struck out a total of 744 times. Because of his tendency to strike out, you won’t see Bruce batting much higher than .260.
Bruce has also only played seven games as a designated hitter. This could mean Bruce would much rather be an outfielder than a designated hitter, which would be acceptable except for the fact he has a .984 career fielding percentage in the outfield and Mookie Betts has right field locked down.
While I believe that signing Bruce would be much more worthwhile than signing Martinez, it’s very unlikely that the Red Sox will sign him.
There are multiple reasons for this, but the biggest reason is Dave Dombrowski’s devotion to signing Martinez, having already offered him a five-year contract.
However, if the Red Sox did sign Bruce, it would benefit the team at a lower price.