Free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce has reached agreement on a three-year, $39 million contract with the New York Mets, two baseball sources told ESPN on Wednesday. Bruce, 30, is a .249 career hitter with 277 home runs over 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Mets and Cleveland Indians. He had received interest from the San Francisco Giants on the free-agent market before electing to return to New York. The Mets initially acquired Bruce from Cincinnati for second baseman Dilson Herrera and pitcher Max Wotell in August 2016, then traded him to Cleveland for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan during the stretch drive last summer.

Bruce’s deal is the second highest for a free-agent position player this offseason — trailing only first baseman Carlos Santana’s three-year, guaranteed $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in December.

With Bruce back in the fold, the Mets’ 2018 starting outfield is likely to consist of Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Michael Conforto in center and Bruce in right. Conforto hit 27 home runs last season and made his first career All-Star team before suffering a dislocated shoulder in August and undergoing surgery to repair a torn posterior capsule. Although the Mets have said his rehab is going well, it’s questionable whether he’ll be ready by Opening Day.

Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo are New York’s other center-field options. Bruce, who has logged 13 career starts at first base, is capable of spending time at the position if prospect Dominic Smith struggles in his second season. Smith hit .198 with nine homers in 49 games with New York in August and September.

All things considered, this is an alright move, not a great move, and definitely not a game-changing move. If anything, it simply puts the Mets’ offense back where it was at the beginning of the 2017 season, while making it no better. The same problems still exist that where there when Bruce was first was with the Mets– he’s a boom-or-bust bat who can play corner outfield, an area the Mets already had covered with a healthy Conforto. His ability to play first is nice, but doesn’t make for a true platoon with Smith, as both players bat left-handed, and in an ideal platoon a team would have one player who can bat from each side of the plate.

If the Mets feel Conforto will miss significant time recuperating, or may not be the same player when he does return, that this move gains more credibility. But if not, the same problem will exist when he returns– having three players for two corner outfield spots, forcing one into center field, and sacrificing defense at that position. If the Mets had gone out an acquired an actual center fielder, the excitement over the team making the move would have been greater. While Bruce can hit 30 home runs, he does so with a weak batting average, and he is prone to streaks, which too many players on the team already do. Plus, we live in a time where players who hit 20-30 home runs are at a premium, which has lessened the value Bruce provides.

But the Mets did get a bargain in only having to give $13 million a year when Bruce originally wanted $90 million, even if three years may prove to be a year too long. All things considered, this move merely preserves the status quo for the team, and lets the front office feel like they did spend money, even if the money may have been better spent filling an actual need (say relief pitching, or third base….or second base….or how bout a catcher?).

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