The boxes were stacked and taped up around his locker. The last remaining detail for Jay Bruce was packing up his essential gear that he would need tomorrow in San Diego. He carefully filled his equipment bag with an assortment of black Rawlings gloves and other essential gear. Some of the stuff like batters gloves and cleats weren’t needed since his new team wears slightly different colors than the Mariners.
About 24 hours after rumors of the potential deal surfaced on Twitter, the Mariners officially announced that Bruce had been traded to Philadelphia along with cash consideration in exchange for minor-league infielder Jake Scheiner. The Mariners are reportedly sending almost $18 million to the Phillies to offset some of the $21.6 million that Bruce was owed for the remainder of this season and next season.
It’s a curious deal and perhaps speaks to the lack of interest for Bruce on the trade market or the desire for the Mariners to remove one of their many first base/designated hitter types from their roster. It does clear up some future roster clog when Ryon Healy returns from the disabled list. In the interim, Seattle recalled outfielder Braden Bishop from Class AAA Tacoma to take Bruce’s spot on the 25-man roster.
The trade process is something that Bruce has become quite familiar with over the past few seasons.
“This will be trade No. 4 and team No. 5,” Bruce said. “It gets a little easier every time.”
Scheiner, 23, was hitting .256 (40 for 156) with 7 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 19 RBI in 44 games at High A Clearwater in the Florida State League. After hitting .237 in 21 April games, he hit .275 (22 for 80) in 23 games in May. He was a fourth-round selection in the 2017 MLB draft out of the University of Houston. He will report to High A Modesto.
Seattle acquired Bruce in the offseason as part of the trade that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets. While the Mariners were focused on the prospects acquired in the deal — outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-handed pitchers Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista — Bruce and veteran reliever Anthony Swarzak were included in the deal to offset the salary discrepancies, particularly the amount owed to Cano.
Bruce was owed $14.5 million this season and $14.5 million in 2020. While the Mariners liked having Bruce’s veteran presence in the clubhouse for a team filled with young players, he was really never part of the overall plan. They were going to trade him if possible and Bruce understood it coming into the season.
“It’s part of it,” he said. “I figured this would be the situation. You never really know when it’s going to happen. It’s bittersweet. I really like the group of guys here. I’ve got to know some of them and have some pretty good relationships. But it’s part of the business. Now I’m going somewhere where I get a chance to win. At this point in my career, that’s paramount for me.”
As Bruce talked to the media, outfielder Mitch Haniger cranked up the clubhouse stereo with Puff Daddy’s “I’ll be missing you” playing, which made Bruce chuckle during his answers.
Another player yelled, “Someone get Jay’s jersey so we can bury it in his honor.”
In his short time with the Mariners, he made an impact on several players.
“I just hope I leave the place a little better than I found it,” Bruce said. “That’s all I can hope for. They have a good group of guys that are going to take over and hopefully bring this thing back to where it should be. This is a great city, a great baseball city. There’s been a lot of history here and great players come through here. And I know they’re trying to get back there.”
The Phillies are in a slightly different situation compared to the Mariners. They are 33-26 and have a one-game lead in the National League East. Meanwhile, Seattle is entrenched in the cellar of the American League West with a 25-37 record.
“I look forward to going over there and helping the Phillies hopefully win a championship,” Bruce said. “That’s my goal. I just want to win.”
Bruce leaves a team enduring a transition that has been more painful than expected, but was complimentary.
“I feel like there are a lot of things going on here that are positive right now,” Bruce said “I know a lot of these quote/unquote step backs or rebuilds, or whatever you want to say, can be lengthy. There can be some dry times. But this is a good group. It’s a good core group and they have a lot of great pieces. I think they’re definitely headed in the right direction. The more resilient and consistent everyone can be with their daily approach to the game will only help this whole thing in the end.”
Manager Scott Servais announced postgame that they will use an opener Monday with Wade LeBlanc coming in after the reliever starts the game. Servais wouldn’t specify which reliever or how long they would pitch. Right-hander Austin Adams is a strong possibility to be the opener.