Despite a season plagued with injuries and an offense that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL West. This division is still up for grabs, and a key trade could tip the scale in favor of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have largely gotten by on pitching and defense this season, with their lineup struggling to find any type of consistency. Clayton Kershaw being out indefinitely might force the team to opt for rotation help, but the offense could stand to get a surge of production from a slugger on the market.
Dodgers trade rumors are swirling and a noteworthy player available is Jay Bruce. However, would the Dodgers be wise to acquire him in a deal with the Reds? His contract has a team option in it for 2017 at $13 million, so the Dodgers don’t have to treat this as a rental option.
If a guy like Bruce helps carry the Dodgers on a playoff run, the price of a prospect will certainly be worth it.
In related Dodger news , the Dodgers likely wouldn’t have to give up a guy like Julio Urias, but the Reds are still said to be asking for a top prospect for Bruce. The Dodgers’ farm system is ripe with intriguing young players, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they had to part with one of them for one of baseball’s solid sluggers.
Bruce already has 24 home runs this season after hitting 26 total last season. In 8 out of his 9 seasons, he has hit at least 20 home runs.
He ranks 4th in the majors in Isolated Power. Justin Turner currently leads the Dodgers in that category, but only ranks 43rd in the majors. Bruce is 3rd in the majors in RBIs this season, and would be a great run producer in the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup.
As a team, the Dodgers rank 19th in the league in RBIs, so this addition would suit them well from that perspective.
The Dodgers have had some underwhelming offensive production from right field this season. Yasiel Puig has just 17 extra base hits this year, and while the Dodgers would certainly be sacrificing defense to put Bruce in the lineup over Puig, they’d instantly be upgrading their offensive productivity in right field.
Comparatively, Bruce has 52 extra base hits this season. He has 87 more at-bats than Puig, but his slugging percentage is 191 points higher than Puig’s SLG.
The defensive drop off is something that would seriously need to be considered. Not only does Bruce has a lower Range Factor than Puig as well as a weaker arm, but he ranks last among qualified right fielders in Fielding Percentage.
Bruce comes with some concerns as a hitter, as well. He has struck out at least 135 times in each season since 2010, and has 84 in 91 games this season. He also doesn’t get on base as frequently as you’d like a slugger to do. His career OBP is just .320, and he has finished his last 2 seasons with a percentage lower than .285.
He’d instantly provide the most power out of anybody in the lineup, but it comes at a cost. His role would essentially be to knock in the runners on base ahead of him, but he can’t be relied upon to really set the table for those hitting behind him.
What’s interesting about Bruce is his hitting tendencies in certain counts. He’s a masher if the pitcher ever falls behind to him. He has a career average of .314 when he’s ahead in the count. That number plummets to .172 when the pitcher gets ahead, though.
Each batter is expected to follow that basic pattern of being better when ahead in the count, but Bruce’s discrepancies are alarming.
Pitchers can finish him off easily if he falls behind in the count, so perhaps his best option is to be a free swinger early on. 42 out of his 232 career home runs have been hit on the first pitch of his at-bat. That’s about 18% of his home runs.
He also adds a .330 BA in that scenario. It’s not conducive to getting on base with optimum frequency, but he has tremendous power when he gets a pitch he likes. The Dodgers haven’t been great at hitting with 2 outs this season, and Bruce shouldn’t be expected to help in that regard.
For his career, he has just a .218 BA with a .313 OBP in 2 out situations. His slugging percentage also drops 148 points with 2 outs compared to 0 outs, and 143 points with 2 outs compared to 1 out.
With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, Bruce is a career .190 hitter. The Dodgers have left so many runners on base in those types of situations this season, and Bruce doesn’t appear to be that clutch hitter who can make a difference in those scenarios.
When his team is trailing, Bruce doesn’t hit as well as when his team is winning. When his team is behind, Bruce has a BA 15 points lower, an OBP 34 points lower, and a SLG 38 points lower compared to when his team is in the lead. He’s not particularly a rally starter.
For innings 7-9, he has a career BA of .228, a career OBP of .305, and a career SLG of .427, all of which are significantly lower than his totals in innings 1-6. Bruce struggles to make an impact at clutch moments.
Bruce has also struggled at Dodger Stadium throughout his career. In 71 career at-bats at Chavez Ravine, he has a .155 BA, a .228 OBP, and a .282 SLG.
In terms of NL West opponents, Bruce also struggles at Chase Field and Petco Park. His power numbers are good at Coors Field, but this BA and OBP are dismal.
However, he has his highest career batting average at ATT Park among stadiums where he has at least 100 PAs. Elevating your game against the Giants is always a positive trait for a Dodgers’ player.
Having reviewed all the data on him, I think the Dodgers should ultimately avoid him for numerous reasons.
His contract situation makes him more appealing to acquire than a typical rental player, and he’s a proven power hitter, but he doesn’t seem like a good fit to cure what ails this Dodgers’ offense.
His clutch numbers are abysmal for his career, and he doesn’t get on base very frequently. The Dodgers could only realistically expect him to drive in other runners, and although he’d become the best power hitter in the lineup, he displays some frustrating tendencies.
There’s too many red flags with Bruce to really get enthusiastic about the Dodgers acquiring him. I’ve seen a lot of rumors where he’s linked to the Dodgers, and I’m hoping that the Dodgers don’t get a deal done for him.
They should use one of their prospects to acquire an outfielder who may have less pure power than Bruce, but shows a better ability to get on base and get hits in clutch moments.
They’ll have to examine the market to see if that’s a realistic endeavor, but I’m hoping that the Dodgers pass on Bruce. He’s a great power hitter and run producer, but too many of his career numbers make me nervous.
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