CLEVELAND -- Jay Bruce has been on the Indians' radar for several seasons, but circumstances never created the ideal scenario for the club to pull the trigger on a trade. That changed Wednesday night, when Cleveland reeled in the slugging right fielder in a trade with the Mets.
With both Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall on the disabled list, and a lengthy road trip at hand, the Indians renewed talks with the Mets over the past 24 hours to pull off the deal. In order to land Bruce, the Tribe sent Minor League pitcher Ryder Ryan to New York and agreed to assume the entirety of the remaining salary on Bruce's $13 million contract for the year.
Bruce cleared waivers earlier this month, which is a requirement for any trade made after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. And because he was acquired before September 1, he will be eligible for the postseason roster should the Indians make it.
"We've had interest in Jay for years," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians president of baseball operations. "We've tried to acquire him at a number of different junctures in the past. I think what accelerated things for us was Michael sustaining his injury. Once that happened, we re-engaged the Mets and were able to work things out."
Q&A with Indians pres. of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, following the trade for slugger Jay Bruce: https://t.co/onHKtrUQxL
Brantley, Cleveland's All-Star left fielder, went down with a right ankle sprain in Tuesday's win over the Rockies and was placed on the 10-DL on Wednesday morning. An MRI exam ruled out anything serious, but the Indians still do not have a clear timetable for his return. Chisenhall (right calf) has been shelved since July 14 and is still a few days from potentially starting a Minor League rehab assignment.
Those losses punctured a pair of damaging holes in the Indians' outfield, which has rookie Bradley Zimmer manning center, and role players Austin Jackson, Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte filling in the gaps. By adding Bruce, the Indians not only helped solve what has been a revolving door in right, but injected some serious power to the heart of the lineup.
"He's been a consistent power threat," Antonetti said of Bruce. "He's in the midst of having one of the best years of his career in terms of his power output and his slugging, and he's a guy that we think will add to our group on the field and complement our team in the clubhouse."
Through 102 games this season, Bruce has turned in a .258/.324/.524 slash line to go along with 29 home runs and 75 RBIs. Over 10 seasons with the Reds and Mets, he has averaged 27 homers. Compare that to the Indians' outfield, which has combined for just 38 home runs this year.
Bruce will wear No. 32 and the American League Central-leading Indians are trying to get him to Tampa Bay for Thursday night's game, which is the first in an 11-day, 11-game road swing against the Rays, Red Sox, Twins and Royals. The Indians designated Triple-A outfielder Daniel Robertson for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Bruce. A subsequent move for the active roster will be made after Bruce joins the team.
Due to the trade, the 30-year-old Bruce can head into free agency this offseason without being attached to any Draft compensation. In all likelihood, New York would have extended a Qualifying Offer to Bruce -- projected to be north of last year's $17.2 million figure -- but that possibility comes off the table due to dealing him in the middle of the season.
Additionally, because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Mets could have only gotten a pick after Compensation Round B (likely in the 70s) had Bruce rejected a qualifying offer and left as a free agent, as opposed to a first-rounder under the old CBA. That rule change gave them greater incentive to swing a trade now.
In an email to MLB.com's Mets beat reporter Anthony DiComo, Bruce said he knew a trade could be coming.
"The long and short of it is I was prepared," Bruce wrote. "I knew something could happen, and happen fast. I really enjoyed my time in [New York], but I'm excited to jump right into a pennant race."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With 29 homers and 75 RBIs across 406 at-bats, Bruce should remain a lineup fixture in all leagues now that he has joined the Indians' postseason push. Meanwhile in New York, the recent trades of Bruce and Lucas Duda could soon lead to the promotion of prospect Dominic Smith, who is hitting .330 with 16 homers in Triple-A this season and warrants a stash by those who need a first baseman in 12-team formats.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.