By HAL McCOY
The deal and the deed are done. Jay Bruce is gone, off to Gotham to play for the New York Mets. It was inevitable and much talked about, but the sting is real for most Cincinnati Reds fans for the loss of one of the most productive and popular players who occupied Great American Ball Park.
He was pure, unadulterated class. And he loved it when fans screamed, “Bruuuuuuuuuce,” when he came to bat or made a great play in the outfield. It sounded like a Bronx cheer, but it was just a plain ol’ Jay Bruce cheer.A
Amaingly, Bruce becomes the first player in history to be traded while leading the league in RBI. He leads the National League with 80.
AFTER A SNAG THAT forced the Mets to alter the deal, the Cincinnati Reds obtained a package that includes 22-year-old second baseman Dilson Herrera.. He batted .211 in 103 plate appearances with the Mets last season but is hitting .276 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in Triple A this season.
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo had been mentioned as going to the Reds, but he will stay put after medical issues forced the Mets to alter the original deal that put the trade on holed until just before the deadline.
And the shedding of stars and salary, not necessarily in that order, continues as the Reds continue their Reconstruction Act.
The trade of Bruce follows the trades of pitchers Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman last season.
AND IT WAS THOUGHT BRUCE was traded to the Mets at the trade deadline last year, but that deal fell through at the last moment. It also fell through this year, too, before the Mets put Herrera in the deal instead of Nimmo.
Talks with the Mets slowed near the deadline last year and when the Mets had a chance to acquire Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers, they made that trade and the Bruce deal died. Cespedes then helped lead the Mets to the 2015 World Series championship.
And Bruce was deliriously happy that he remained with the Reds, the only organiation he has known. He wanted to stay with the Reds, but at least now his talent will be appreciated by the Met and he will have an opportunity to play with a winner and possibly a World Series champion.
The Reds also receive a lower-level minor-league pitcher, 19-year-old left hander Max Wotell.
HERRERA WAS ON TRACK TO be the Mets second baseman of the future. They got him In August of 2013 in a deal that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates. He played 31 games with the Mets in 2015, hitting .211.
Clearly, Herrera is now the second baseman of the future for the Reds, as soon as they can dispose of Brandon Phillips, whom they have twice traded but the deal was negated when Phillips invoked his no-trade option.
“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 Director 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.”
Bruce, 27, was drafted by the Reds with the 12th overall pick of the June 2005 first-year player draft. On December 14, 2010, he avoided arbitration by signing a six-year contract through this season, with a club option for 2017.
“Over the past nine seasons, we couldn’t have asked for a better person to represent our team, our city and Major League Baseball, both on and off the field,” Jocketty said of Bruce. “During these difficult last few months, he has answered questions about his future almost daily, while continuing to handle himself with the class and professionalism he has shown since the day we drafted him. We wish Jay and Hannah nothing but good things in their future together.”
Yet, after all those positive words uttered by Jocketty about Bruce, he is now wearing a New York Mets uniform.