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Giants interested in trading for Jay Bruce unless they’re not

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Conflicting rumors have the Giants going in a couple different directions on the Reds' power-hitting outfielder.

Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce wants to come to San Francisco. At least, there’s some part of his subconscious that does. It’s why he hit 37 home runs in 12 at-bats in AT&T Park when the Reds were in town. And according to Twitter, the Giants are either heavy into talks with the Reds, or they’ve mostly given up on the idea.

Man, do I hate the deadline.

Look at the timestamps! Man, do I love the trade deadline.

The latest scuttlebutt is that the Giants are mostly out, focusing on relievers and starters. It is the opinion of this particular blog that Jay Bruce rumors are bad rumors, for a couple reasons.

The first is statistical. According to Baseball-Reference’s WAR, Bruce is the 193rd-most valuable player in baseball, tied with Kelby Tomlinson (0.7 WAR). That’s pretty hard to do when you have 25 home runs (Bruce, not Tomlinson). That mark is also based on wonky defensive stats, and those can definitely let out some nasty belches in a single-season sample, so I wouldn’t put all of your analysis into a single stat.

But the number does suggest a couple things. One is that a .316 on-base percentage — in Cincinnati, no less — is a very, very deep hole from which to climb. Something else that WAR suggests is that Bruce is extraordinarily bad in the outfield. This isn’t something that aligns with the eyeball test according to Reds fans that I’ve talked to, so take those numbers with a grain of salt.

But if you're looking for visual evidence that poor outfield defense can cost a team a win, well, it exists:

"And what are you wearing, 'Jay from State Farm'?"

bruce

"Shame. Lots of shame."

You don’t need WAR to know that dingers alone do not make for a good baseball player. There’s a reason you don’t hang a left at the Dave Kingman statue to get to Gate A. At the same time, it’s possible that the Giants internal metrics suggest that their single-to-single lineup could sure use a power threat, and that the WAR we have is underestimating the power of those dingers to the Giants, specifically. Also consider that if they have the kind of left-handed power that AT&T Park can’t tame, that’s an inherent dinger gap for 28 more games this season and 81 games next season.

So don’t look at rWAR or fWAR or my proprietary Grant’s WAR (GWAR!) and pretend like you know everything about Jay Bruce. But assume you know a little. Hits ball far. Clomps around on the bases and in the field. Doesn’t get on base a lot. It would take an awful lot of convincing for him to make perfect sense for a Giants team that’s having trouble fitting all of their outfielders on one roster.

Again, not likely to happen. And that’s probably a good thing. At the same time, you’re not wrong to dream about a Posey/Bruce/Pence/Belt heart of the order. That would probably give opposing pitchers the willies.