Trade market dwindling for Mets' Bruce

As camp nears, club may hang on to veteran OF

Trade market dwindling for Mets' Bruce

NEW YORK -- In two blinks of an eye this weekend, Jose Bautista zeroed in on a deal to return to the Blue Jays, while the Phillies agreed to terms with Michael Saunders. Those bits of news landed about a week after the Orioles traded for Seth Smith, fortifying an outfield in need of left-handed thump.

Just like that, the Mets' market for Jay Bruce, which as of New Year's Day included as many as a half-dozen suitors, evaporated down to one or two.

It was with all that swirling around him that general manager Sandy Alderson recently admitted the Mets may not trade Bruce after all.

"Obviously the market for certain players, certain free agents and therefore trade candidates has been slow at best, nonexistent at worst," Alderson said late last week at Citi Field. "What we continue to do is reassess where we are and what our options are going forward, and those options range from doing something soon … or doing nothing. There are a variety of reasons for considering holding on to the players."

Bruce's RBI single

That statement stands in direct contrast to what Alderson and Mets officials have said all offseason, that the Mets would like to clear both Bruce's spot on the depth chart and his $13 million in salary. At the Winter Meetings in December, Alderson went as far as to suggest the Mets would make no further acquisitions until Bruce was off the books.

That much has held true; since re-signing Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have done nothing more than make a handful of Minor League adds. But with Spring Training less than a month away, the Mets are now rethinking their strategy, finding the idea of increasing payroll to add a reliever more palatable than dumping off Bruce for little return.

All of this can still change, particularly with clubs such as the Rangers and Giants still seeking outfield help. But one of the Mets' main offseason agenda items -- trade Bruce no matter what -- no longer seems to apply.

"And keep in mind, we have a number of players coming off of injury," Alderson said. "So to the extent that we carry an extra outfielder or infielder into Spring Training isn't such a bad idea."

If Bruce does remain a Met, it will create a complicated outfield situation for manager Terry Collins, who must balance Bruce, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares on the same roster. In particular, the non-move would cut into Conforto's playing time at a critical juncture of his career.

But no move is permanent, and even if the Mets go into Spring Training with Bruce as their starting right fielder, they're liable to trade him eventually as injuries begin to hit camps around baseball.

"We just have to monitor our needs together with what other clubs may need and be able to respond under the circumstances," Alderson said.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.