Between the Indians and the Mets, Bruce finished with 36 home runs and 101 R.B.I. — the fifth time he has hit at least 30 home runs and driven in 90 runs in his 10-year career.
In what had been a slow off-season across baseball for free agents, the Mets were always interested in re-signing Bruce, and they moved aggressively on Wednesday to complete the deal. Bruce, who also had interest from the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants, appreciated the Mets’ pursuit and liked the direction of the team under Mickey Callaway, their new manager. Bruce got to know Callaway during his time in Cleveland, where Callaway was the Indians’ pitching coach.
Bruce’s return offers the Mets insurance on multiple fronts. Michael Conforto, perhaps the brightest light of the Mets’ disappointing 2017 season, may not be ready by opening day because of left shoulder surgery he underwent in September. The Mets also wanted protection around the first-base position, where the prospect Dominic Smith had a brief and underwhelming stint after his call-up to the major leagues in August.
When Conforto returns from his rehabilitation, Bruce could shift to first base from right field, or he could be part of an outfield rotation with Yoenis Cespedes in left, Conforto in center, and Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares rotating around.
Bruce will be paid $10 million in 2018, and $14.5 million in 2019 and 2020, according to one person familiar with the deal. Bruce’s deal also includes a partial no-trade clause excluding five teams of his choosing.
Since late last season, the Mets had signaled that their payroll would go down from their team-record $155 million on opening day of the 2017 season. Earlier this off-season, General Manager Sandy Alderson confirmed that he expected the payroll to drop, which drew much criticism from fans.
Although the Mets signed reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14-million deal in December, it was unclear whether they would open their wallet any more. But on Wednesday, they acted decisively to bring back a known and proven commodity.