PHOENIX — Walt Jocketty was in the middle of his session Monday at the Biltmore Hotel when reports of the Jay Bruce trade started popping up.
Major League Baseball makes all the managers and GMs from the Cactus League available to the media once during spring training.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweeted that the Reds were in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“(Heyman) texted me,” Jocketty said. “I told him (Bruce) had not been traded.”
Jocketty would have said that if the deal had been agreed to and the ink was still wet on the paperwork. Jocketty never confirms a deal until it is official.
Heyman later reported that it was a three-way deal involving the Los Angeles Angels, and the Reds would be getting prospects from Toronto in the deal. That led to some Twitter fireworks, since the Jays have the 30th-rated minor league system in the MLB.
The deal may or may not get done. But the interesting thing, to me at least, is the Reds would try to trade Bruce now. His value is probably as low as it’s ever been.
Why not wait and see if he hits this year? If he does, his trade value would climb. And it can’t go much lower if he doesn’t hit. He hit .226 last year after hitting .217 in 2014. His power numbers returned — 26 home runs, 35 doubles, 87 RBI — but his value is still down.
Remember, Bruce won the Silver Sluggers as the best-hitting right fielder in the National League in 2012 and ’13. He beat out Jason Heyward both years. Heyward was traded for top pitching prospect Shelby Miller two offseasons ago and signed an 8-year, $184 million deal with the Cubs this offseason.
The only reason to trade Bruce now, I’d guess, is the Reds need to further cut payroll.
The Reds are on the hook for just over $76 million for eight players — Joey Votto ($20 million), Homer Bailey ($18 million), Brandon Phillips ($13 million), Bruce ($12.5 million), Devin Mesoraco ($5 million), Raisel Iglesias ($3.2 million), Zack Cozart ($2.9 million) and J.J. Hoover ($1.4 million).
The other 17 players on the roster are almost all going to make right around the $507,500 minimum. That would bring the payroll in at $85 million or so.
That’s down considerably from last year’s record of $115.3 million. I didn’t think tickets sales would fall off that steeply to force a Bruce trade.
Bob Castellini always said that his ownership group budgets to break even. With a payroll that low, my guess is they’d do better than break even — unless ticket sales take a steep dive.
Castellini said something that hinted at a Bruce trade as the Winter Caravan departed.
“If we don’t get talent (in return), we have to settle for reduction in payroll, so we have enough to put into player development, player signings, international signings and otherwise, sports science and technology,” he said. “That’s the direction you have to go.”
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.