The defending National League Central champion Cincinnati Reds are currently building to compete for a World Series title, and the team should reward right fielder Jay Bruce with a contract extension.
According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, Bruce is looking to be a Red for life. He is already signed through 2016 with an option for 2017, but his agent made it clear that he would like to add six years on to the contract.
Cincinnati is unlikely to add more years to the contract after signing first baseman Joey Votto through 2023 (with a option for 2024), but the right fielder deserves an extension. Not many rising 25-year-olds would be asking for an 11-year contract with a team, but his loyalty to the team and the city should not be ignored.
Bruce's current contract gives him an average of $8 million per season, but he is not looking to negotiate that part. The team should be open to talking with a player of his caliber while he is still relatively cheap. He will earn around $12 million near the end of his current contract, so that will likely be a starting point for an extension.
Giving a player a deal that will last over a decade is always a risk, but it could be an even bigger risk not to sign him. Votto will earn over $20 million starting in 2016, which Bruce could also demand if he gets his average a little higher.
Bruce finished 10th in the NL Most Valuable Player voting this past season (voting breakdown courtesy of BBWAA.com), which is a joke. The Reds finished with 97 wins, which was one game behind the Washington Nationals for the best record in baseball, and Bruce carried the offense. He deserved to be around fifth, and he managed to get the most fourth-place votes of anyone outside of the top five candidates.
Nobody cares about who finishes below first or second in the MVP race, but Bruce deserved more recognition.
After being robbed of Gold Gloves in both 2010 and 2011, the right fielder managed to be a finalist in 2012 despite a subpar defensive season. Bruce also took home his first Silver Slugger in 2012, which made him the only Red to win a major award.
With his talent, he has a chance to be an All-Star every season. He is a two-time National League All-Star and will only get better.
After all, Bruce has won two NL Central titles for Cincinnati. His walk-off home run in 2010 is the signature moment of his young career, and he hit the go-ahead home run in the Reds' clincher in 2012.
He broke his wrist while diving for a ball in New York in 2009, but he has not been injured in his career outside of that. Most of Bruce's numbers are on the rise.
The 25-year-old has already tied a franchise record for being named NL Player of the Week five times in his career. He was also named NL Player of the Month in May of 2011.
In two postseasons, Bruce is the only Cincinnati player to reach base in all eight games. He has turned up his game in the national spotlight to this point in his career.
Bruce has had a career full of awards and honors so far, and he is only five years in. At this point, the Reds aren't looking to sign a second player to a decade-long deal. The team can hope that he keeps the same attitude and is willing to negotiate at some point later on, but it could end up costing the Reds millions more if he turns into a superstar.
Long-term deals are tough to hand out, but Bruce is looking to stay with his friend Votto for the remainder of his career. Cincinnati has a nice core of young players with good attitudes, which will make this team very tough to beat for the next decade.