NEW YORK -- Thirteen minutes prior to the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Mets transformed their season and reshaped their history. In trading for Yoenis Céspedes, the Mets sparked a frenzied run that culminated in the National League pennant -- and, general manager Sandy Alderson said, that perhaps emboldened them
NEW YORK -- Thirteen minutes prior to the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Mets transformed their season and reshaped their history. In trading for Yoenis Céspedes, the Mets sparked a frenzied run that culminated in the National League pennant -- and, general manager Sandy Alderson said, that perhaps emboldened them to do what they did Monday.
Desperate for offense as they again seek a postseason berth, the Mets acquired outfielder Jay Bruce from the Reds for prospects Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. In a smaller deal, they also reacquired left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese from the Pirates for Antonio Bastardo.
"It was an extraordinary turnaround last year," Alderson said. "All we can do is try to acquire as many good players as we can to put ourselves in a position to maybe have that magic again."
• Mets bring back Niese, send Bastardo to Bucs
It is a quest that began with infielders James Loney and José Reyes earlier this season, and it will continue with a possible waiver deal for a right-handed reliever in August. But the centerpiece of everything is Bruce, who according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first player to be traded while leading the league in RBIs since that became an official statistic in 1920. Bruce has 80 of them, thanks in large part to a .360 batting average with runners in scoring position. On paper, the Mets' new cleanup hitter quenches a season-long thirst for a team ranking last in the Majors (.206) in that category.
He is batting .265 overall, with 25 home runs in 97 games.
Still, Alderson called Bruce "not an absolute perfect fit for us." Unlike Cespedes, a Gold Glove left fielder who performed capably in center, Bruce profiles as a below-average defensive player best-suited to right -- even if the Mets eventually ask him to dabble elsewhere. For now, Bruce's presence will force the Mets to split starting center-field reps among Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Justin Ruggiano, none of them ideal options.
"We've got to talk about it and come up with a plan," Collins said. "It's not just based on offense. We've got to take a good look at what our best lineup is going to be."
The acquisitions of Bruce and Niese capped a whirlwind few days for the Mets, who also engaged the Brewers seriously on a deal for catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Alderson said that the Brewers simply "preferred players from other teams than the ones we had available to offer," prompting Milwaukee to trade Lucroy to the Rangers.
That left the Mets to focus their energies on Bruce, with whom they initially flirted last July before turning to Cespedes. This time, instead of focusing on starting pitcher Zack Wheeler in a return package, Cincinnati agreed to a deal of outfielder Brandon Nimmo, Wotell and a third piece, according to multiple sources. But the Reds subsequently balked at the medical records of one of the players involved, forcing both teams to redraw the trade with hours to go until the Deadline.
The reworked deal revolved around Herrera, who as recently as December was in line to be New York's starting second baseman. But when the Mets acquired Neil Walker in a trade for Niese, that bumped Herrera to the Minors. When they later signed Reyes, who remains under contract for 2017, that provided enough depth for the Mets to stomach losing one of their top offensive prospects. A Futures Game participant, Herrera was batting .276 with 13 homers in 86 games at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Wotell, the Mets' third-round Draft pick in 2015, owned a 3.94 ERA for Rookie-level Kingsport.
"This was a very difficult trade for us to make because of how our fans, ownership and everyone in our organization feel about Jay, but we acquired two quality players who better fit the direction our organization is heading," Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said. "Herrera is considered one of the brightest young stars in the game today. Wotell fits in with the other good, strong arms we've been trying to stockpile in our Minor League system."
Emboldening the Mets was the fact that Bruce is not a rental; his contract includes a $13 million team option for 2017, giving the Mets outfield insurance in the likely event that Cespedes opts out of the final two years of his deal.
But mostly, the move was about 2016, and a Mets team once again desperate for an offensive spark.
"I think it will be a big impact," Collins said. "He's a tremendous run-producing guy. He's a huge bat in the middle of our lineup."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
In the midst of his best season (25 homers, 80 RBIs across 370 at-bats), Bruce should continue to thrive in New York. Even though the slugger fared best at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in previous seasons, his .900 OPS on the road this year (.851 OPS at home) indicates he has the talent to produce anywhere. With Bruce occupying a corner-outfield spot in the Big Apple, Conforto may be hard-pressed to earn his way back onto mixed-league rosters. Meanwhile, Bruce's absence in Cincinnati may hinder the ability of players such as Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to compile counting stats while leaving the Reds with a wide open right-field situation.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.