The Blue Jays are expected to pursue free agent Jay Bruce this offseason, according to a recent report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Toronto was unable to make a deadline deal for the slugger, but is reportedly still interested in his services after walking away from Jose Bautista this week. The Indians, Cafardo adds, might redirect their efforts to retain Carlos Santana rather than striking a new deal with their former outfielder.
Bruce, 30, experienced something of a breakthrough in 2017. He split his season between the Mets and Indians, batting a cumulative .254/.324/.508 with 2.7 fWAR and a career-best 36 home runs in 617 plate appearances. The Indians plucked him from the waiver wire in early August, sending minor league righty Ryder Ryan to the Mets as Bruce helped them through their 22-game win streak and a five-game run in the ALDS. He went 5-for-18 in the postseason, collecting two home runs, a double and four RBI before the team was edged out by the Yankees in Game 5.
As the Blue Jays head toward a significant rebuild in 2018, one potential hurdle is their former inclusion on Bruce’s no-trade list. Back in July, that list included the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Yankees, Athletics, Rays and Phillies. Granted, the Jays may find it easier to court Bruce’s services now that he’s entered free agency, but unlike the D-backs or Yankees, they finished the 2017 season with a lot left to prove.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.