Two words, Cardinal Nation: Jay. Bruce. Before you berate me, hear me out.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Bruce has cleared waivers in New York:
Source: #Mets' Jay Bruce has cleared waivers. Eligible to be traded to any team. Owed about $4M rest of season.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 4, 2017
2017 has been a drag for St. Louis Cardinals fans. Wouldn't a little extra pop make it better to watch? Imagine pouring a great marinade on a crappy steak.
This season hasn't been easy to watch in a number of respects. The team hasn't' climbed over the .500 mark in two months. Certain players have under-performed or played the disappearing card way too often. Big money players like Dexter Fowler haven't been able to stay healthy. All the while, a feud has developed between an All Star catcher and the manager, broadcast live all over social media.
The Cardinals also happen to lack pop in 2017, ranking 11th in the National League in home runs and tenth in slugging percentage. It's like flipping the 2016 narrative, where long balls dominated the Cardinals attack in many stretches. Adding Bruce wouldn't make the Cardinals a great team, but it would increase their chances of catching the Chicago Cubs, who are 17-11 since July 1, but losers of three in a row here in August.
According to Baseball Reference, Bruce alone has generated 2.5 Wins Above Replacement. The man is unfiltered pop at the plate. He's smashed 25 home runs this season for the Mets while driving in 75 and slugging .531. He has an OPS+ of 120, which is above average, yet drowning in a losing team's spiral.
The Cardinals have been disappointing, but before the start of play tonight, sit just four games out of first place. They are at odds with the .500 mark, but a short burst from reaching the even mark and catching the Cubs. If the pitching held up and the Cards got more pop, you never know what could happen.
I know what you are thinking: a few days ago, I wrote about playing the kids and seeing where they could take you. The problem is, that isn't happening anytime soon. Harrison Bader was sent down for Stephen Piscotty's lovely walk rate and Luke Weaver was sent down for Adam Wainwright's return, so the kids aren't in the plans this season. So, if they are going to lean this way, acquire Bruce and see where he takes you.
Bruce gives the Cardinals a good outfield presence as well, with his six defensive runs saved and 4.6 UZR. He has an arm and could fit well out there, but he isn't a Gold Glove caliber player in the field.
He is a masher and one who has been consistent since his arrival in the league ten years ago with the Cincinnati Reds. If he hits one more home run this year, Bruce gets to 30 home runs for the fifth time in his career. He is a career .471 slugging artist who also strikes out a ton (average of 158 a season).
The next big question is simple: where does Bruce play? The Cards would have to unclog the outfield drain in their roster to fit Bruce in this season. Perhaps see if the Mets want to part with some bullpen weapons with Bruce, and throw in a Randal Grichuk (no clear spot in St. Louis) or Magneuris Sierra if the Mets coughed up a good prospect. Stephen Piscotty seems like the de facto rightfielder, but the Cards need more from that position. Piscotty is 1-8 with three strikeouts since his return this month from an injury.
Bruce would at the very least enliven a misguided season in St. Louis, cranking home runs and bringing some excitement back to Busch. Many will say he's not worth the time, but you can't deny a 2.5 WAR and 29 home runs. The Cards didn't make any moves at the deadline, lack a clear direction, but seem to think they can catch the Cubs.
Here's the reality: Jay Bruce helps you catch the Cubs. He gives the Cards a legit middle of the lineup thumper. Paul DeJong has reached Earth, going 1 for his last 18. Jedd Gyorko slugged .325 in July. Yadier Molina, the Cards fifth place hitter, is banged up. Carson Kelly is batting in the middle of the lineup today only because Yadier is hurt.
In some ways, Bruce doesn't make sense, but in more ways than one for this Cardinals team, he makes sense. All I've heard over the past week is the need to catch the Cubs and how 2017 isn't over yet. The Cardinals have the pitching to support a comeback. They need the firepower in the lineup. Matt Carpenter hasn't hit a home run since June 24; Bruce has hit ten home runs since then.
Like it or not, the Cardinals need what Jay Bruce is cooking. If it causes a temporary outfield re-alignment, so be it. If the Cards don't want to pack it in and prepare for 2018 and 2019, truly go all in this year and get a weapon. The Cubs made moves to help their team. What did the Cardinals do? Nothing.
Jay Bruce makes sense for a Cardinals team that seems hellbent on catching the Cubs, but actually doing little about it.