When the Yankees brought Jay Bruce in on a minor league contract, it was generally seen as a low-risk/high-reward type of move. If he still had something left in his bat following a so-so 2020 with the Phillies, then he could poke some blasts into the right-field seats and provide Luke Voit with a decent backup option. If he couldn’t, then he was probably toast.
As the past month has shown, Bruce was more the latter. Given the Opening Day job as Yankees first baseman following Voit’s injury, the 34-year-old looked lost at the plate throughout his 39 plate appearances in pinstripes entering Sunday’s game, notching just four hits and a single homer — a .118/.231/.235 triple slash. With most of the team in an offensive funk, manager Aaron Boone had recently displaced Bruce at first with DJ LeMahieu, subbing in the recently-acquired (and also potentially washed) Rougned Odor at second.
The writing was pretty much on the wall for the Bruce, whose likely release was imminent. So instead of waiting around, the 14-year veteran is going out on his terms, per Ken Rosenthal:
Jay Bruce announces his retirement. pic.twitter.com/bJNmt0ASpO— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 18, 2021
Over his 14 years, mostly with the Reds but also with the Mets, Phillies, Mariners, and Cleveland, Bruce hit .244/.314/.467 with a 108 OPS+, 20.0 rWAR, and 319 career homers — a commendable total equal to the likes of Cecil and Prince Fielder. The No. 12 overall pick of the 2005 MLB Draft hit his peak in Cincinnati, where he was an All-Star three times and won a pair of Silver Sluggers in 2012 and 2013 (the Reds’ most recent playoff appearances prior to 2020). Bruce made the postseason five times, but never advanced past the Division Series.
Boone noted that the Yankees might replace Bruce on the roster following the game today with Mike Ford or Tyler Wade, but a decision had not yet been made. For those curious, Bruce is not in the starting lineup today, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Boone gave him one last at-bat for fun at some point, especially if the game is not in too much doubt.
Sorry that it didn’t work out in pinstripes, Jay, but best of luck in the future and thank you for bowing out as gracefully as possible, given the circumstances.