The small-market Cincinnati Reds know they can't give long-term contracts to just anybody.
They believe Jay Bruce isn't just anybody.
General manager Walt Jocketty officially announced on Tuesday that the Reds and Bruce had reached agreement on a six-year contract through the 2016 season with a club option for 2017. The outfielder's deal is worth $51 million.
"It's like I told Jay," Jocketty said. "This isn't something we casually do. You have to be selective and pick the right guy. We definitely picked the right guy here. With Jay, we felt very confident. Jay Bruce has tremendous talent, a hard-work ethic, and he plays every day to the best of his ability — plus he's very involved in our community relations."
The 23-year-old Bruce established himself as one of the NL's premier right fielders while helping the Reds win the NL Central title. He hit .281 with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs in 148 games.
Bruce opted for the long-term deal and pushed back chances at salary arbitration and free agency for several reasons.
"The owners' commitment to the organization means a lot of the players," said Bruce, Cincinnati's No. 1 pick in the June 2005 draft. "The financial security is great, but hopefully, we'll be having a lot of fun for seven-plus years down the road. Walt has put together the pieces to keep this going for a long time."
Bruce also pointed out he'll still be in his prime when the deal expires.
"I'll be in a great position when the contract ends in the future," he said.
Bruce already has 68 career home runs and 180 RBIs over three seasons. He ranks first in home runs and second behind Arizona's Justin Upton in RBIs among active players under 24 years old.
"He's a young guy who's got a chance to get better and better every year," Jocketty said. "He's like a big kid out there, still having fun playing the game."
The deal allowed the Reds to avoid going to arbitration with Bruce. Following last season, he became eligible under Major League Baseball's "Super 2" guidelines.
Jocketty said he hopes the deal serves as an incentive to other budding Reds stars such as center fielder Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati's first pick in the June 2006 draft.
"It lets them know that they can get the financial security and peace of mind," Jocketty said. "They see that, if they work hard, they can have the opportunity to be in the same situation."
Bruce gets a $250,000 signing bonus and salaries of $2.75 million in 2011, $5 million in 2012, $7.5 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, $12 million in 2015 and $12.5 million in 2016. The Reds hold a $13 million option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
In addition, there are eight teams Bruce cannot be traded to without his consent.