CINCINNATI -- The Jay Bruce era with the Reds ended on Monday just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, when the right fielder was dealt to the Mets for infielder Dilson Herrera and lefty pitching prospect Max Wotell.
"It was extremely hard. We all went downstairs to say goodbye to him when he came in," Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said of Bruce. "It was very tough. He's part of your family. He grew up in the organization. We saw him as a young kid. … Jay was a special kid."
With the Reds in rebuilding mode, they were seeking to trade Bruce for more than a year to shed his contract. Although it's not a prohibitive payroll-eater, he is making $12.5 million in 2016 with a $13 million club option for '17 that has a $1 million buyout.
Although aggressive suitors for Bruce were initially slow to materialize, activity picked up over the past few days while the Reds were in San Diego.
"With Jay, there were several clubs involved," Jocketty said. "When it got down to it, the Mets were the most serious and most active. We ended up making the deal with them in the end."
There were rumors that the Reds have talks to trade Zack Cozart to the Mariner but Jocketty downplayed them. There were never serious talks.
"There was a little bit of talk, but not really, no," he said.
Adding Herrera adds gives the organization another young position player. The 22-year-old has spent this season with Triple-A Las Vegas, and he was batting .276/.327/.462 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 86 games. In 49 big league games for the Mets in 2014-15, he hit .215 with six homers.
"We just think he has potential to be an everyday second baseman," Jocketty said. "He's got a good bat, he runs well, plays good defense. He's just 22 years old but he has some Major League experience. He's got real good upside and high grades in all of our reports."
Wotell, 19, was a third-round Draft pick in 2015, and was ranked as the Mets' No. 16 prospect by MLBPipeline.com. He was 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 29 2/3 innings for Rookie-level Kingsport this season.
"We liked him last year and had him as a third-round type of player also," Jocketty said. "He's a kid we feel has tremendous upside. We've gotten very reports about him this year."
Bruce, 29, has spent all nine of his Major League seasons with the Reds and is a three-time National League All-Star. That included this season, during which he is batting .265/.316/.559 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs -- numbers that have him on pace to set career highs.
In what was perhaps his most indelible moment for Cincinnati, Bruce hit a walk-off home run in 2010 to help the club clinch the National League Central and its first playoff berth in 15 years.
"That will be a memory for everybody for a long time," Jocketty said.
Amid two down years and with his approaching free agency, the Reds explored deals to move Bruce last year and nearly had a deal in place with the Blue Jays in February until medical reports with one of the players returning stopped the trade.
Bruce's value has increased with his resurgent season. The Reds' first-round Draft pick in 2005, Bruce's 233 career home runs are seventh most in franchise history.
In the hours leading up to the Deadline, reports centered on the Reds also acquiring outfielder Brandon Nimmo in the deal. But an apparent medical holdup with another player proposed in the trade forced the teams to rework the deal. Jocketty said the player with the issue was not Nimmo.
"Herrera was the guy we wanted all along," Jocketty said. "We talked about both of them. We liked the potential for Herrera long term. We liked Nimmo too, but we've got some outfield depth and not as much middle-infield depth."
The club is determining where Herrera will report, but Jocketty expected that it would likely be Triple-A Louisville. A decision on who replaces Bruce in right field is also pending, but there's a good chance that Adam Duvall could shift over from left field. Hot-hitting corner outfielder Scott Schebler could also be considered for a promotion from Louisville on the heels of his being named the International League player of the month for July.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.