MLB.com Columnist

Jon Paul Morosi

Bruce could be first domino to fall in trade market

Hot-hitting Reds outfielder in final guaranteed year of contract

Bruce could be first domino to fall in trade market

The Cincinnati Reds are 3-0, a welcome development for a team that lost 98 games last year. Of greater long-term importance: Jay Bruce is off to a hot start, going 6-for-12 with two home runs.

The Reds' season-opening sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies hasn't changed the franchise's overall direction. The team is rebuilding, so a trade involving Bruce is possible -- maybe even likely -- sometime this year.

Cincinnati discussed Bruce, 29, with multiple teams during the offseason. Sources say there haven't been trade talks involving Bruce over the past week or so, although the dialogue with some interested clubs was left open-ended as the regular season began. (April is typically a quiet period for baseball trade negotiations.)

Bruce will earn $12.5 million this season, in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Reds hold a $13 million club option, with a $1 million buyout, for 2017.

The relatively short term left on Bruce's deal enhances the possibility that he will be moved -- and also mitigates any aversion to trading him within the division. Perhaps the rival St. Louis Cardinals will emerge as a Bruce suitor (baseball pun alert) if their offensive malaise, which dates back to last season, continues into the summer.

Bruce's two-run single

The Cardinals, who have an all right-handed starting outfield, hit the sixth-fewest home runs in the Majors last year. Bruce, who bats left-handed, is eighth among all big league hitters in home runs this decade, with 167.

Another National League Central team -- the Chicago Cubs -- could be in the market for a left-handed power hitter, with Friday's news that Kyle Schwarber has been lost for the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. The Cubs, boldly pursuing the franchise's first World Series title since 1908, have the mandate and prospect base to pursue virtually any upgrade prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

The Toronto Blue Jays nearly acquired Bruce from Cincinnati as Spring Training began, but the deal fell apart and talks are unlikely to revive anytime soon. The Los Angeles Angels are generally interested in adding left-handed bats to their right-handed-dominant lineup, but they didn't pursue Bruce seriously during the offseason.

The Baltimore Orioles talked with the Reds over the offseason, but they are inclined -- for now, at least -- to give everyday at-bats to Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard.

The chances of a Bruce trade will remain high as long as Jesse Winker, his potential replacement in the outfield, has a productive season at Triple-A Louisville. Winker bats left-handed, as does newly acquired outfielder Scott Schebler, Cincinnati's walk-off hero Wednesday night. In other words, the Reds could trade Bruce and not suffer a deficit of left-handed power.

MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported in November that Bruce has an eight-team no-trade clause, allowing him to block deals to the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Rays, Diamondbacks, Twins, Marlins and A's.

Jon Paul Morosi is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.