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The big 'if' regarding Phillies' decision with free-agent Jay Bruce

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As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.

Today: DH/OF Jay Bruce

Career rundown

A 13-year vet best known for his nine-year run in Cincinnati. Bruce has five seasons with at least 30 home runs and two with 100-plus RBI.

He has nearly 13,000 big-league innings in the outfield but at this point is a designated hitter.

Bruce has never hit for a high average and has never walked much, but he has always hit for power. In two seasons with the Phillies, he homered once every 13.4 at-bats. For reference, Bryce Harper has homered once every 15.9 ABs as a Phillie, obviously in many more at-bats.

The biggest issue with Bruce in these two years has been his inability to stay on the field. The Phillies have played 163 games since acquiring him and he's had four different stints on the injured list. 

How he became a Phillie

The Phillies traded Jake Scheiner, a Single A corner infielder/outfielder, to Seattle on June 2, 2019 for Bruce. 

It was a well-timed acquisition because a night later, Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL in San Diego and Bruce was immediately thrust into an everyday role. 

Bruce thrived in his first three weeks as a Phillie, hitting .294 with four doubles, seven homers and 20 RBI. In five of those first 19 games, Bruce had the biggest hit in a Phillies win.

 

This was one of former GM Matt Klentak's best trades. The Phils gave up a non-prospect to acquire Bruce and had to pay Bruce only $2.75 million of the $23 million he had remaining on his contract.

2020 season

Bruce was productive in his first 15 games before missing time with a quad injury. In those first 15, he hit .245/.288/.633 with three doubles, two triples, four homers and 11 RBI.

He homered in his first game back from the IL but went 5 for 40 with one longball the rest of the season. 

In stretches in both years with the Phillies, Bruce has been a difference-making power hitter. But he's limited in the field and on the bases, he's been oft-injured, and when he's not homering he has little value at the plate because of the lack of on-base skills.

What lies ahead

Despite Bruce's flaws and age (2021 will be his age-34 season), he is worth bringing back on a one-year deal if the National League will use the designated hitter in 2021. That is still unknown at this point but perceived as likely.

Having Bruce as your seven-hitter and DH against right-handed pitching is a decent option. It shouldn't be the Phillies' only DH option in 2021 if the rule is still in effect, but if it costs something like $1-2 million, it could be worthwhile.

One of the Phillies' issues in 2020 was that they had too many DHs. They did not give McCutchen a full workload in left field in his first year back from a season-ending knee injury, and they also needed that spot to get J.T. Realmuto off his feet late in the season when he was dealing with a hip injury.