Fantasy411 Podcast: Breaking down Bruce deal

January 13th, 2018

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and national editor Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Matthew Leach: It's been this kind of offseason so far, where we are excited to have to talk about. That's where we're at -- and that's all right -- but it's the truth. So I think there's a couple of interesting things about this. One is the broad question of what we make out of Jay Bruce, but the more specific one that I want to touch on first is that it sounds like he could be playing some first base. That has a couple different implications. One, potentially, for Bruce's value. But to me the more interesting question is in regard to Dominic Smith.

The Mets have a numbers crunch issue, and the talk all along has been to get some sort of platoon partner for Smith -- somebody who could take some of the burden off him against tough lefties, play a little bit of outfield and be a multiposition piece.

But what the Mets have gone ahead and done is pick up somebody who might eat much more directly into Smith's at-bats. So I want to start by talking about Smith and what this says to you, Fred, about where you would rank Smith going into this season.

Fred Zinkie: I actually think this takes him off all mixed-league draft lists. If everyone is healthy or at any point they have [Yoenis] Cespedes, [Michael] Conforto and Bruce, then Bruce has to play first base unless they're going to go back to looking at one of those players at center field. But I think this sends a message that they don't think Smith is ready to really help them. That was the impression I got, especially when they mentioned Bruce playing first base. And this wasn't the first time; the Mets had looked at free-agent first basemen earlier this offseason. So I'm getting the feeling they don't think he's necessarily the answer they want to run with right now.

With first base being so deep right now in fantasy, I just think he's not a mixed-league option. He's someone you might draft later in an NL-only league and hope that somehow he comes into 400 at-bats, but I don't know if that's going to happen.

Leach: And you raised another question. I don't think anyone is sure about Conforto. We're hopeful about Conforto -- he was really good last year when he played -- but I don't think confident is a word you would use about him this year, just because it was a pretty significant injury he suffered and there was reason to worry. But does this in any way up your worry meter regarding Conforto? It's a three-year deal, so this was a strategic decision more than a tactical decision; signing Bruce for three years is not something you do because Conforto is going to be out a month longer than you thought. At the same time, does it raise your worry meter with Conforto? If you're drafting right now, does it affect where you rank Conforto?

Zinkie: To me, it doesn't change it. I think Conforto is his own issue because to me the trickle-down effect is probably in how the Mets view Smith. I think the Mets signed Bruce thinking he could play right field until Conforto's ready, and then he moves to first base. Because if we're the Mets, we don't really care what happens to Smith as far as putting him back into Triple-A for a while until we have another injury. Like you said, it's a three-year deal and there is an opening at first base where they don't have an established starter. So I think Conforto is still his own issue, and to me it doesn't send a message that the Mets are worried about Conforto. We're already worried about him for 2018, but it doesn't up my worries for him.

Leach: So the final question is, where do you rank Jay Bruce? What do you make of Jay Bruce back in New York, where he had a pretty good year last year? It's probably hard to project him to repeat 36 home runs and 101 RBI, given that he had never hit 36 and had only driven in 101 once before. But if I give you something like .250, 30 and 90, do you think that's reasonable? Optimistic?

Zinkie: So I was just about to say 30 and 90 before you said it. That's where I see him. I often end up owning Jay Bruce, though I don't know if I would call myself a Bruce fan. He's a little undervalued in fantasy circles just because he's just one of those players who is who he is. He'll never grow -- he's the same as he was seven or eight years ago -- and there are more power hitters now, so that makes him a little less valuable. I think he's definitely in the second half of mixed-league drafts because there are just a lot of power hitters, and he's not going to be a high-average hitter. He's not going to give you any speed.

That being said, the one thing Bruce is, after talking about Conforto, is really durable. He's had one DL stint since 2010, so you can probably count on him to get you those 530-550 at-bats, 30 home runs, 90 RBI. I don't really like the lineup, and it's also not an awesome park to hit home runs in. Are you more optimistic by chance than I am? I just don't like it. Cespedes could be really good, but beyond that I just see a lot more questions than answers.

Leach: I agree, I also have questions about that lineup. They kind of made it a priority last year and really thought, 'Hey, we're going to hit.' It more or less came together all right, and the pitching was more of a problem for them than the lineup was. But it's hard to project the Mets as being a particularly good lineup. I don't think it's a dire lineup, but I don't think it's one that's going to add value to guys for fantasy.

Zinkie: I think for the Mets to have, say, an above-average lineup this season -- or maybe even just average -- has to really hit the ground running and be special at the top of their lineup. Cespedes has to stay healthy and Conforto has to get back in fairly short order. If all those things happen, I think they could have a nice top of the lineup. But even the bottom part doesn't look great, and that's a lot of 'ifs' with Rosario and Conforto.

Leach: Pretty much every spot in their lineup has someone who's really promising, or at some point in the not-too-distant past has been very good. Even at catcher, 's best is pretty doggone good. Rosario is exciting, and all of the outfielders at times have been very productive. So if you really want to squint, and see the best Mets lineup -- the best Mets lineup is pretty good. There's just an awful lot of things that have to go right to get even 75 percent of that best Mets lineup.

Zinkie: Totally, and throw in that massive range of outcomes for their starting pitching staff and the Mets as a team may have the biggest range of possible records next season of any team in baseball.