TORONTO — Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda won’t get to take aim at the short right-field porch at The Stadium as members of the Yankees this season, but good on the Bombers’ front office for trying.
The Mets could’ve gotten multiple prospects from the Yankees for Bruce, but the Bombers wanted their Subway Series rivals to pay some of the remaining salary on the 30-year-old’s contract, the Daily News confirmed.
So instead, Bruce — who was open to a move from Queens to the Bronx, according to a source — ended up with the Indians on Wednesday night, a team the Yankees could very well see come October. And Duda is in Tampa, an AL East rival of the Bombers.
The Mets’ return on Bruce and Duda: Ryder Ryan and Drew Smith, a pair of minor-league pitchers you’ve never heard of. But at least they don’t have to stomach watching the two sluggers hit bombs for the hated team across the city.
The Yankees could’ve used Bruce and his 29 homers and .841 OPS — especially given that Matt Holliday is injured and Aaron Judge is mired in a slump that includes strikeouts in 26 consecutive games.
The Bombers pounded out 17 hits in their 11-5 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, but Judge went 0-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and a K. In the second half, he has 14 hits, 21 walks and 38 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. By comparison, he had 15 hits, nine walks and 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats during his 2016 cameo.
No one is taking anything away from what Judge did in the first half — which was otherworldly. But the 25-year-old rookie is facing a new challenge — and he’s going to have to counter the league’s adjustments.
“He’s going to strike out, but he’s going to hit home runs and he’s going to be productive and he’s going to take his walks,” Joe Girardi said. “We knew that coming in. So the strikeouts don’t worry me. The productivity is what you want. And he remains productive and he’s getting on base and hitting home runs.”
What was encouraging on Wednesday night was that the surrounding pieces delivered. Todd Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Garrett Cooper combined for 12 hits — three of them homers.
Still, the starting pitching remains a concern in light of CC Sabathia’s injury and Masahiro Tanaka’s latest clunker. Bombers starters have pitched five or fewer innings in 13 of the last 24 games. That’s probably not conducive to sustainable success — even with their cache of power arms in the bullpen.
“His splitter wasn’t very good,” Girardi said of Tanaka, who walked a career-high five as the Yankees needed five relievers to record the final 15 outs. “I think with the (88) pitches in (four-plus) innings, there’s concern there. He was getting tired, and that’s why I made the change.”
Recently, Brian Cashman has strengthened weakness by acquiring Sonny Gray, Jaime Garcia, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Frazier. And the Bombers could certainly benefit from the eventual returns of Aaron Hicks, Greg Bird and Starlin Castro.
Bruce or Duda would’ve been nice too.
Hey, at least Cashman & Co. tried.
With Kristie Ackert