The Indians and injury-ravaged Mets got together for a rather big trade – with likely minimal regular season impact – in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Cleveland acquired three-time All-Star – and impending free agent – Jay Bruce for former UNC two-way player Ryder Ryan, a move precipitated by Michael Brantley’s return to the DL thanks to a wonky ankle.
Bruce, who was once widely recognized as the top prospect in the game, was in the midst of another Jay Bruce-type year: he was hitting .256/.321/.520 with 29 homeruns, just five short of tying his previous career high, en route to totaling two wins above placement.
The move is reminiscent of the Tribe’s roster build from just a few short years ago when the front office fielded a club that was highly inefficient against southpaws. The lefty-swinging corner outfielder/part-time first baseman owns a career .227/.292/.425 triple-slash line, making him an ideal platoon partner for Brandon Guyer – though we will see if a player making $13,000,000 in his final season before free agency would be willing to see his role reduced down the stretch.
On the other side of the ball, Bruce moves as well as an older lady coming off of hip replacement surgery, leading to some terrible defensive metrics over the past three-plus seasons.
The net return for the Indians is maybe 0.5-a-win from now through the end of the season. The trade, however, does have some impact beyond the remaining schedule: Bruce’s addition provides added insurance against injury and it likely will allow Manager Terry Francona to use his creative tendencies to play matchups in the playoffs when it comes time to square off against the likes of Chris Sale and Dallas Keuchel as potential first round foes.
Heading the other way is little-talked about right-hander Ryder Ryan, who, despite getting plucked out of the University of North Carolina in the 30th round last year, signed his name on the dotted line for a six-figure bonus. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound power arm has generated plenty of swings-and-misses during his first full season in the minor leagues, averaging 10.67 K/9 while being named to the Midwest League Midsummer Classic.
And regardless of lacking a flashy name among most of the general populace, Ryan is an intriguing prospect. Originally drafted in the late, late rounds by the Indians coming out of high school, Cleveland grabbed the draft-eligible sophomore third baseman and immediately converted him into a pitcher. After some early season struggles with his control, Ryan has posted an impressive 28-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 23.0 innings of work.
Simply put: Ryan is the type of inexperienced, hard-throwing pitcher that Mets GM Sandy Alderson covets. Don’t be surprised to see Ryan working out of the club’s Major League bullpen within three years.
In the end, though, this seems to be an even trade: Cleveland acquires an expensive impending free agent, while agreeing to pay the remainder of his contract, for a high risk/high reward minor league arm.