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.
Reports from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith confirmed two more additions to Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic: Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin. Martin is pegged to start at shortstop during the competition, which is scheduled to kick off in March.
Freeman, 27, had a breakout season with the Braves in 2016, batting .302/.400/.569 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS in 693 PA. Martin’s season got off to a bit of a slower start, and he finished his second year in Toronto with a .231/.335/.398 batting line, 20 homers and a .733 OPS through 535 PA. The 33-year-old has not played shortstop at the major league level in any of his 11 seasons, though he did make an appearance at short during the World Baseball Classic in 2013, partly to avoid the stress of handling an unfamiliar pitching staff.
Freeman and Martin will join free agent first baseman Justin Morneau and right-handers Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster on Team Canada, per earlier reports from Davidi on Saturday. Gagne, 41, has been playing in the Canadian-American Association on and off since his departure from MLB in 2008, while Dempster has not played pro ball since his retirement in 2014.
As for those who are skipping the WBC this year, Davidi lists Mariners left-hander James Paxton and Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon as two who have declined to appear so far. Nicholson-Smith adds that while free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has expressed interest in signing on with Team Canada, he’ll wait until he picks up a contract for the 2017 season to make a final decision.
The Cubs reportedly agreed to a one-year, $15.3675 million deal with right-hander Jake Arrieta on Friday, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. Arrieta is entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, and Carrie Muskat of MLB.com points out that only the Nationals’ Max Scherzer received a higher raise for a third-year-eligible starter, at $8.8 million in 2014.
Arrieta, 30, followed a career-best performance in 2015 with an 18-8 record, 3.10 ERA and 3.8 fWAR over 197 1/3 innings in 2016. His strikeout rate dipped from a 9.3 SO/9 to 8.7, while his walk rate hit a 3.5 BB/9 clip, nearly double that of his previous season totals. Although he was unable to successfully defend his 2015 Cy Young title, Arrieta delivered his second career no-hitter against the Reds in April and pitched to a 3.63 ERA over 22 1/3 innings during the Cubs’ championship run.
If any extension talks have progressed this month, as Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, hinted they would back in December, nothing has been publicized just yet. The Cubs have yet to confirm the settlement.