MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the Blue Jays are closing in on a deal with free agent outfielder Jose Bautista. This is not particularly surprising, as Bautista’s market has been slow to develop despite recent reports having listed the Orioles, Twins, and Indians as other interested teams.
Bautista, 36, is coming off of a lackluster 2016 performance. Over 517 plate appearances, the six-time All-Star hit .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI.
The Blue Jays needed to provide some clarity in their outfield as Ezequiel Carrera was listed first on the depth chart. Bautista, of course, will supplant him if and when the deal is finalized.
In a column for CSN Philly on Sunday, Jim Salisbury mentions that the Mets are seeking two prospects for outfielder Jay Bruce. “Prospects,” in this case, seems to be a nebulous term. Salisbury adds that the Phillies have had “longstanding interest” in Bruce, but the team prefers to hold onto its prospects. As a result, free agents Brandon Moss or Michael Saunders are better fits for the Phillies, per Salisbury.
Bruce, 29, is under contract for the 2017 season at $13 million before becoming eligible for free agency. The Mets, with a crowded outfield, have made it no secret throughout the offseason that Bruce is available via trade.
Bruce, however, is coming off of a lackluster second half of the 2016 season. He hit quite well in 97 games with the Reds, batting .265/.316/.559 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 402 plate appearances, earning him an All-Star nomination. After joining the Mets, though, Bruce hit a paltry .219/.294/.391 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in 187 PA.
The Mets’ relative lack of leverage and a still-crowded free agent outfield market will likely hurt the club’s ability to get what it wants for Bruce. As a result, the Mets may carry Bruce into spring training and try to trade him near the start of the regular season. If that doesn’t work, Bruce may have to accept being a part-time player until the summer.
The Mets and first baseman Lucas Duda avoided arbitration on Thursday, agreeing to a $7.25 million salary for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports.
Duda, 30, was eligible for arbitration in his fourth and final year. He can become a free agent after the 2017 season. This past season, Duda was limited to 47 games due to a stress fracture in his back. In 172 plate appearances, he hit .229/.302/.412 with seven home runs and 23 RBI.
Duda will attempt to reestablish his value in his walk year. There’s reason to believe he can do it as he posted at least an .830 OPS with at least 27 home runs in 2014 and ’15.