A year ago, at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Jay Bruce went from the Reds to the Mets. It was an emotional moment for Bruce. He didn't hide it. Nothing against the Mets, but the Reds were his team. He signed with them out of high school and never thought he would play somewhere else.
He learned his lesson.
Bruce's name was a staple in the rumor mill in the days leading up to this week's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he never got caught up in what could happen. He is still in a Mets uniform, happy to be there, but also aware that he has cleared waivers so he could still be dealt this month. And whether or not that happens, he is eligible to be a free agent in the offseason.
None of that is an issue with Bruce. The experience of a year ago was good for him. It brought him to grips with the reality of the business side of baseball. It helps his focus on playing the game, which is apparent from the results on the field.
A two-time All-Star with the Reds in eight-plus seasons, Bruce went from a .265 hitter with 25 home runs the first four months of last season with Cincinnati to hitting .219 with eight home runs in 50 games with the Mets. There was no carryover this year. Bruce went into the weekend hitting .262 with 75 RBIs and 29 home runs, one away from his fifth season of at least 30 home runs in seven years.
Bruce discussed his situation in this week's Q&A:
MLB.com: Surprised you weren't traded?
Bruce: I knew this was a possibility. I am happy to still be there. Nothing changes. We'll see what happens. Obviously, the August trade deadline is still there.
MLB.com: You accepted the situation this year in a more relaxed manner.
Bruce: Everything is easier when you get older. You realize what you can and can't control. You understand what is important and what is not. You learn to compartmentalize the rumors. Most of the time things that happen are not so wildly discussed (in public).
MLB.com: Can you block all the rumors out?
Bruce: With all the reporting on the Deadline and the social media, it would be impossible to not know what's going on. You have to be aware of it.
MLB.com: Does it impact the game?
Bruce: It's important to do that. You can't just ignore what is going on. Watching Lucas (Duda get traded last week), we all felt it. We all know what the rumors are when we are in the clubhouse. But once it's time for the game, I put them away. You have to do that. You have to focus on the game.
MLB.com: Did going through this once make it easier the second time?
Bruce: I have different priorities now. I have a family. My son is 15 months old. He was three months old a year ago. That was a new experience. Everything was new. When you have a family, you look at things differently.
MLB.com: How would you describe your feelings a year ago?
Bruce: I wasn't upset about going to the Mets. It was just being traded and leaving the Reds. It didn't matter where I was (traded). With the Reds, the emotions resonated. It was the team that drafted me. It was the team that raised me. It was my baseball home. I spent nine years there. You have to understand the business side, but you also are dealing with the fact that everything that happened to me as a player was with the Reds. I was fortunate to play on winning teams with the Reds. Once you get to the playoffs, you realize why you play. You understand that everything individually takes care of itself.
MLB.com: You seem more at ease this year. Is that fair to say?
Bruce: It is easier this year. I am less emotionally attached to the situation. It's not the group of guys I grew up with. It's a good group of guys -- don't get me wrong -- but it's not the same as that first time. Don't take that wrong. It is easy to be comfortable here. This is a great group of guys. They made the transition easy. That is the one constant from last year, the guys in this room. I know it's a business, and if it happens, I will go where they send me. The next day I will be playing again, just in another uniform."
MLB.com: Disappointment that a trade didn't happen?
Bruce: What I am disappointed about is all of us anticipated we had a chance to be a World Series contender. It has not worked out that way. We have so many guys who have spent time on the disabled list. That's the disappointing part. That's why you play. You know the ramification of underachieving is selling pieces off to get better for the future. We wanted to make the most of this season, but it didn't happen.
MLB.com: Could you see re-signing with the Mets?
Bruce: I am not in the bridge-burning business. I am not in a position to shut out any opportunities or scenarios. We'll see what happens. Free agency is a couple months away, but you do wait a long time to get a chance for free agency. You want to test it. We'll see if something happens. My goal is to be healthy and do what I can to help the team.
MLB.com: You do sound like you are comfortable with the uncertainty.
Bruce: You learn to understand if you aren't part of the future, they prefer to deal you. They ship you where you are needed. It's the way the business is set up. Both sides understand that. That first time there are emotions, but you know it's not personal. It's business."