Because Of Course They Are

Dave · November 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Let’s put aside the Carlos Beltran stuff for now. The Yankees want Beltran, the Rangers want Beltran, the Cardinals want Beltran back; barring some kind of unreported desire to have access to fresh caught salmon, there’s little reason to think that Carlos Beltran is going to be particularly excited about playing for the Mariners. The Mariners are interested in Carlos Beltran the same way that most 18 year old males are interested in taking a swimsuit model to the prom.

So let’s talk about the first part of that tweet. Jerry Crasnick suggests that the Mariners would like to sign free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. Because most of us have been busy speculating about how many dollars the Mariners will throw at Jacoby Ellsbury this winter, we haven’t talked too much about Cruz here, but it makes perfect sense that the Mariners would be interested in Nelson Cruz. Because we know that this front office places a very high value on this particular skillset. For your reference, below are Nelson Cruz’s core offensive numbers over the last three seasons, compared to the same numbers that Michael Morse put up in the three seasons prior to be acquired by the Mariners last winter.


Name Team BB% K% ISO
Michael Morse Nationals 6% 22% 0.220
Nelson Cruz Rangers 7% 23% 0.226

Morse’s overall offensive totals from 2010 to 2012 were better than Cruz’s from 2011 to 2013, but that was entirely due to the fact that Morse had one of the highest rates of hits on balls in play, a number that has a lot less predictive value than things like walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated power. In these core numbers, Cruz and Morse are basically identical twins.

The similarities don’t end there, of course. Both are physically built like linebackers. Both are right-handed power hitters, which the Mariners believe they need to add to their line-up for balance and to help against left-handed pitching. Both are injury prone, spending parts of nearly every season of their career on the disabled list. Neither are particularly good defenders or baserunners, and accumulate almost all of their damage at the plate. Both have been suspended for using PEDs. Both are on the wrong side of 30 and are headed to the decline phase of their careers.

Their overall performances aren’t exactly equal. 2010 to 2012 Morse was a slightly better hitter (thanks to the aforementioned BABIP) and worse fielder than 2011 to 2013 Cruz has been. Over those three seasons, Morse averaged +12 runs of offense and -15 runs of defense compared to an average player, while Cruz was +6/-11. Cruz is a little less bat and a little more glove, but it’s basically the exact same player type. There are few players in baseball more similar than Cruz and Morse.

The Mariners, of course, were thrilled to acquire Michael Morse last winter. They made a big deal about how he was going to revolutionize their line-up, and how he was the kind of Big Bat they’d been missing for years. He was considered a vital cog of the 2013 plan, and if you ask them what went wrong last year, they will frequently point to his early season injury as a big reason for why the plan didn’t work.

At no point has the organization ever suggested that they think perhaps it wasn’t a very good plan, however. They love players like this. It’s why they’ve kept non-prospects like Carlos Peguero hanging around and acquired a thousand low rent versions of this same player type. The list of low walk, high strikeout, one dimensional sluggers the Mariners have stockpiled over the last few years is getting absurdly long; no one likes this player type more than Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners. Of course they’re interested in Nelson Cruz.

But they really shouldn’t be. Cruz is Texas’ Kendrys Morales, a mediocre player with an outsized reputation based on irrelevant HR/RBI numbers. While Morales is a “professional hitter”, Cruz is “right-handed power”, and in both cases, the talking points are about how scarce these things are in the “post Steroid Era”. Like with Morales, what is not mentioned is that the “power” isn’t exactly that amazing to begin with, it comes with weak on base percentages, and Cruz does nothing else to add any value to a big league team. The Rangers made Cruz a qualifying offer which he turned down, so he’s now a compensation attached free agent, and he turned the offer down because he’s expecting to land a multi-year deal this winter.

The FanGraphs Crowd projected Cruz’s contract to come in at $32 million over three years, while former GM (and recent successful prognosticator of free agent contracts) Jim Bowden projected $48 million over those same three years. The guys over at MLBTradeRumors guessed three years and $39 million. Everyone’s in the same ballpark, basically, so let’s just take the average of the three guesses and say Cruz will cost $40 million over three years.

To live up to that contract, Cruz would have to be a league average player over the life of the deal, or maybe slightly above average. $40 million over three years should buy you something like +6 or +7 WAR from 2014 to 2016.

From 2011 to 2013, Nelson Cruz produced +3.9 WAR. From 30-32, he was 2/3 of the player he’d need to be from 33-35 in order to justify the expected cost of signing him, and that’s not even including the loss of the draft pick in the calculation. In reality, Cruz projects to be about a +1.5 WAR player next year, and then probably a +1.0 WAR player in 2015, and probably a +0.5 WAR player in 2016. A team signing him should expect to get roughly +3 WAR over the next three years. In a rational market, Cruz would probably land a deal roughly similar to the one David DeJesus signed with Tampa Bay, which paid him $5 million per year for two years with a team option for the third year.

DeJesus, while being wildly different than Cruz, is basically as valuable. This is what a slightly below average outfielder heading into his decline phase should cost. But teams have decided to pay ridiculous prices for power hitters while undervaluing performance in things that are not home runs, so players like Cruz cost way too much to acquire and hardly ever provide a positive return on investment. And that’s why I ranked Nelson Cruz as the #1 land mine of the 2014 free agent class. There is no player available this winter who has a bigger gap between his perceived abilities and his actual value.

And there’s no player who fits the mold of the player the Mariners overvalue more than Nelson Cruz. So, yeah, maybe we should have all seen this coming. Maybe instead of expecting the Mariners to throw a lot of money at a very good speed-and-defense player, we should have expected the Mariners to throw a little bit less money at a mediocre dingers-and-ribbies player. After last off-season, expecting anything else was probably wish-casting.

Comments

42 Responses to “Because Of Course They Are”

  1. eponymous coward on November 12th, 2013 5:35 pm

    So, in SAT Analogy land:

    Bill Bavasi:mediocre veteran starting pitchers like Silva and Washburn::Jack Zduriencik:mediocre veteran outfielders like Michael Morse and Nelson Cruz

    (sigh)

  2. Longgeorge1 on November 12th, 2013 5:35 pm

    HR power is the most overpriced commodity in MLB. How many HR champs have gotten World Series rings since free agency? (in the same year) I think the answer is 2. But even if it is 3 or 4, the correlation is very slight. Give me a bunch of line drive hitters who can run.

  3. shortbus on November 12th, 2013 5:58 pm

    If there’s a chance they see Cruz as a replacement for Morales at least the compensation picks would cancel out when Morales signs elsewhere and Cruz wouldn’t hurt us in the outfield. So if the team waits until it’s clear Cruz isn’t getting a big deal and is able to sign him on a short and cheap deal as a DH, it wouldn’t be the worst.

    But I fear that what you’re saying is exactly right: the team likes Cruz as a big signing and a key component of our team as an outfielder. At that point I can only hope he plays right field and they put two good defensive players in the other two outfield positions.

  4. Pete on November 12th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. Let’s walk through an exercise…

    - Nelson Cruz is Hispanic Mike Morse.
    - Hispanic Morse will almost surely get a much bigger contract than White Morse
    - Wouldn’t it be super prudent to just bring back White Morse? Absolutely!

    My logic here is flawless. Bring back Mike Morse! It’s only prudent!

    I love Mariners jokes. You’re welcome.

  5. stevemotivateir on November 12th, 2013 6:06 pm

    Interest in Cruz was something I fully expected. Peralta’s the one that’s made me scratch my head, though I’m sure they would view him as an outfielder first, rather than a short stop.

  6. Typical Idiot Fan on November 12th, 2013 6:40 pm

    We’re taking random rumor mongering seriously now?

    Next week Crasnick will say that the interest in Beltran / Cruz was overblown, just like he did with the Ellsbury rumors.

    It is important to talk about the potential free agents and how they fit or how they’re landmines, so more power to you for pointing out that Cruz sucks, but the rest is unnecessary Dave. Don’t get antsy until something actually happens. All this preliminary rumor festing is nonsense until it actually materializes into something, you know that.

  7. PackBob on November 12th, 2013 6:41 pm

    It seems that some people and teams have a hard time understanding the correlation between opportunity and RBIs. It’s a shame that the Mariners appear to be part of that crowd.

    There is nothing that will turn me off to this team more than adding more plodding HR hitters that think first-to-third means two singles behind them.

  8. galaxieboi on November 12th, 2013 6:45 pm

    Looks like I picked the wrong offseason to quit sniffin’ glue.

  9. Keith Mc on November 12th, 2013 7:38 pm

    I’ll give my 2 cents worth on Nelson Cruz since I’ve seen most of his games here in the Dallas area.

    Cruz did have several stays on the DL (believe it was hamstrings) for a season a two. But he has been pretty much injury free the last two seasons.

    He would definitely give the M’s some added power in the middle of the lineup. Last year he was on the path to around 35 homers and 95 RBIs or so, until the PEDs suspension.

    Yeah, about that suspension. As disappointed as Ranger fans were in Cruz, most welcomed him back eagerly after he served his 60 days and played the last few games of the year. I think that’s because he’s a decent guy who had built-up a fair amount of goodwill with fans over the years. His famous misplay of the fly ball in the 2011 World Series caused most of us to feel bad for him, rather than get mad at him.

    I think he probably has one more year in the outfield before his new team has to make him a full time DH. At times last year he took very poor routes to the ball in right field. But he still throws the ball pretty well from out there.

  10. californiamariner on November 12th, 2013 7:45 pm

    In a sort of sick, twisted way I’m excited to see what this offseason beholds. I’m not even going to explain that comment, but someone has to understand.

  11. MissouriMariner on November 12th, 2013 8:37 pm

    In my opinion there is nothing exciting about this team or it’s front office…what a joke. What a tremendous idea! Sign a couple of guys that can’t defend and will spend more time on the DL than off of it. Sign a slugger so we can have a few more dingers…it was such a successful idea this past season…

  12. terryoftacoma on November 12th, 2013 8:43 pm

    Give rumors about as much time as they are worth. None.

  13. Gormogon on November 12th, 2013 8:50 pm

    Or, you can look at it this way: The reason rumormongers would make a rumor like this one is because it is all too plausible and recent history suggests it. It is, in fact, a perfect rumor. I just hope that is all it is.

  14. l2ider on November 12th, 2013 9:05 pm

    Used to have confidence in Z but in hindsight, looks like the initial trades were probably the work of Blengino and the the stats guys. Now that they’re gone, we’re seeing Z signing all the slow, old DHs with a little pop and no defense.

    OT but why is there NO MENTION of the terms of the new manager’s contract? The other manager hires list the years and amounts but we got squat on the M’s manager. Wonder if it’s for 1 year since that is Z’s contract length. LAME DUCK.

  15. casey on November 12th, 2013 9:07 pm

    so if you buy into all the rumours are you believing that Ellsbury, Tanaka, and Beltran are coming as well or do you just cherry pick the ones that fit your view of Jack Z.

    the other rumour that a lot seem to like and think is pretty much the same guy is Corey Hart – looks like Morse #2 who was just Russell Branyon not to mention Richie Sexson too.

  16. MrZDevotee on November 12th, 2013 9:11 pm

    California,
    I know exactly what you’re talking about… I used to have a cat that during the summer, if we left the window open, would leave us “presents” at the foot of the bed… Mice, birds, sometimes things we couldn’t figure out.

    You got out of bed and walked very carefully in the morning, and if there were feathers all over the place, you knew it would be a long day of finding little bird bits around the house…

    “What will it be tomorrow!?”

    Jack Z is kinda like that cat I used to have.

  17. evolvingcaveman on November 12th, 2013 9:31 pm

    I can forgive the GM for last years defensive mess as long as he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t repeat it this season. Cruz can’t possibly be brought in as an OF right? I guess this offseason is more compelling then I thought.

  18. californiamariner on November 12th, 2013 9:39 pm

    Haha MrZ, but I bet you missed that cat when it left. Not that I will miss (like not miss at all) Z or much about the team of the last decade. But, at least you found some humor in it.

    As far as “What will it be tomorrow” yeah I totally feel that. It is going to be wild and probably ugly but I’m not going to fight it with misery and skepticism anymore! Ha yeah right, I probably am.

  19. Westside guy on November 13th, 2013 12:02 am

    MrZ, that’s hilarious.

  20. maqman on November 13th, 2013 2:28 am

    A lot of words about not much of a rumor.

  21. bermanator on November 13th, 2013 5:11 am

    Obviously it’s just a rumor at this point, and the vaguest kind of rumor at that (I’ve “heard” some awesome rumors about Bigfoot signing a contract, in that I heard someone in my daughter’s first-grade class talking about how cool it would be).

    Then again, the point of Dave’s post is that anyone hearing that Cruz report would nod their head and figure it made sense. He’s Z’s kind of player, and he was in Milwaukee when Zduriencik was there.

  22. casey on November 13th, 2013 6:34 am

    strong rumors this morning that the A’s are in hard on Cruz – is he a moneyball kind of player?

    maybe a better story would be what kind of player is a Z kind of player. Who has he signed over the last 5 years – was Figgins the norm, or was it Morse and Montero, how about Seager – does he fit the mold or was the reported deal for Upton more his kind of player. Even themes, values, attributes would be good instead of people making things up.

  23. MrZDevotee on November 13th, 2013 7:43 am

    Casey-
    I was gonna mention the same thing… The “Moneyball” A’s have jumped in on Nelson Cruz… Totally makes me want to be a fly-on-the-wall inside their headquarters. I wonder what the attraction is? Do teams think he’ll be affordable, because his type of player is losing its lustre in the defense/metrics era?

    Is he being viewed as a DH moving forward, if you let him play the field for half a year?

    Interesting in light of Dave’s thoughts.

  24. MrZDevotee on November 13th, 2013 7:48 am

    California-
    Yep, in a sick way, I still miss that cat, and mornings are a little “meh” around here these days…

    Just like, in a seriously sick way, I’m still a diehard Mariners fan.

  25. ripperlv on November 13th, 2013 7:55 am

    Jerry Crasnick has been wrong many times before. However, that isn’t making the quesy feeling go away.

  26. Badbadger on November 13th, 2013 9:13 am

    When I saw that Nelson Cruz had rejected a qualifying offer I had to google for conformation because I had a hard time believing the Rangers even made him one.

    I don’t absolutely hate the idea of Cruz as a Mariner (given the current state of our outfield) but not for a draft pick. We don’t need to give up a draft pick to get a 1.5 win guy. Sign Nate McClouth or something instead.

  27. msfanmike on November 13th, 2013 9:31 am

    Amen, Badbadger … good call.

    McClouth wouldn’t represent the “need for RH power” – which is the one theme the FO will likely stick to, instead of looking at overall value.

    It is true the team does need RH bats because they were atrocious against LHP’s last year, but they also need players who add actual value. Maybe they don’t place a high value on their own, internal analytics department – which apparently does exist.

    I think its just a rumor and a slow news day. Even the Mariners wouldn’t give up a high (unprotected) draft pick to sign Nelson Cruz. Right?

  28. Athanasius on November 13th, 2013 9:59 am

    Using the rumor mill as “evidence” to prove the ineptitude of the front office comes off as pretty darn desperate. Much ado about nothing.

  29. CCW on November 13th, 2013 10:40 am

    I agree with Athanasius. We have enough to complain about without complaining about what the M’s are merely *rumored* to be considering.

  30. shortbus on November 13th, 2013 11:01 am

    Dave’s point is that the rumors fall perfectly in line with what this FO has been doing since they got here. The low-contact, high-power, no-defense player is a type they just seem to like, which gives credence to the rumors.

  31. JasonJ on November 13th, 2013 12:11 pm

    Why are you guys complaining about more content on this site? What else can we talk about other than rumors at this time of year?

  32. Westside guy on November 13th, 2013 12:16 pm

    Obviously one of the things going on right now is the usual “everyone is looking at everyone” stuff. Hopefully we’ll have a better idea of what they might be looking at once the winter meetings are underway.

    Of course, “hopefully” may not be the right word… we shall see. But, yeah, it’s not like Dave pulled this out of thin air. This front office has shown itself to be interested in these sorts of players for some reason. Let’s hope Jack proves a bunch of us wrong, though, and makes another course correction this time around.

  33. seagood3 on November 13th, 2013 1:07 pm

    Just when I thought this site had hit bottom I see this. You are now going to write posts that chastise the management based on rumors? Seriously?

    Dave, even you have written many times how tight lipped the Ms brass is, yet now the rumors are worth writing posts on? Your time is so precious and this is what you choose to write on? Might be time for some self reflection.

    Longtime Ms fan and not thrilled obviously, but I will be rooting again next year.

    Longtime ussmariner reader, but find myself coming here less and less. Dissaponting

  34. smb on November 13th, 2013 2:54 pm

    This post garnered perhaps the greatest amount of commenter asshattery I have ever seen on this site outside of a gamethread. It’s almost as bad as Lookout Landing here now. The Mariners fanbase has become, by and large, completely unbearable. Dave should probably ditch this bullshit and go on to Fangraphs full-time, and stop donating a portion of his limited freetime to people who just want to bitch about everything, including bitchy metacommentary about post topics.

    Good on you guys for registering your disappointment with this free site and its free content…what a joke.

  35. djw on November 13th, 2013 3:00 pm

    Maybe the A’s are price-enforcing the Mariners, fantasy auction-style, to make sure they don’t have money left to accidently invest well.

    Not really, of course, but it’s certainly an odd rumor.

  36. Beniitec on November 13th, 2013 3:02 pm

    The Mariners are interested in anyone who can swing a bat and has hit before. They have money to spend so they will be rumored to be interested in everyone until someone from the front office says, no we are not interested in that player. We should know by now that Z’s front office doesn’t leak these things. If anything it’s the players’ agents that are leaking these tidbits or speculation from media types. Plug your ears… it’s gonna get loud before we have actual aquisitions. It’s just noise.

  37. Eastside Suds on November 13th, 2013 3:06 pm

    “When I saw that Nelson Cruz had rejected a qualifying offer I had to google for conformation because I had a hard time believing the Rangers even made him one.”

    Texas wants Cruz badly, but not at a crippling price. Word is he is great in the clubhouse, their only real power hitter and he would fill a void in left field. They want him back badly!

    “Let’s hope Jack proves a bunch of us wrong, though, and makes another course correction this time around.”

    I so hope you are right. Jack has become way too predictable (in a bad way). All I remember from last year are opponent fly balls finding the grass, runners going from 1st to third (theirs, certainly not ours) and 5 guys that could only DH or play 1st base. Stop this madness!!!

    Speaking of rumors….(I’ve “heard” some awesome rumors about Bigfoot signing a contract)

    Signing Bigfoot would have some measurable upside.

    Heard the big fella can play 1st (although he covers the entire base with hit foot), left field (amazing range if you watch “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Planet), DH (can effectively switch hit, hit behind runners and be an intimidating presence…ala Big Papi) and would a great clubhouse addition. Just keep a watch on the buffet table! I say sign him to a multi-year incentive laden contract!

  38. phineasphreak on November 13th, 2013 7:10 pm

    @Eastside Suds: I like the idea of signing Bigfoot for his bat, but rumor has it he’s not a good clubhouse guy. Apparently he kinda keeps to himself.

    Dave – Per mlbtraderumors.com (from Jon Morosi), The Mariners have Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler on their radar as a potential trade target.

    Perhaps Mr. Z is perusing USSM? You can put that on your resume :)

  39. MrZDevotee on November 14th, 2013 12:36 am

    Eastside-
    Or as the Latino players know (and call) Bigfoot:

    “Peguero”

  40. ChrisFB on November 14th, 2013 11:08 am

    Dave, you know better than to take any rumors seriously, ever. Especially when the hot stove season is barely a couple of weeks old.

    I look forward to your thoughts on the winter meetings – and your usual reminders on what posturing, meetings and rumors from there mean also – but really, apart from those, I don’t see why tweets and rumors really mean anything one way or the other about the M’s or most any other baseball team.

    It would not surprise me if the M’s tried to go to the Morse well again, with Morse specifically or a Morse-type player in general. But I for one will try not to get too interested or react too much one way or the other if they’re simply rumored to be looking for one.

  41. Paul B on November 14th, 2013 2:25 pm

    It has been over a year since I crossed the line from frustration with the Mariners into outright laughter.

    I hope they sign 3 DH types who never walk. It is a hoot. Maybe this will be the year they get back to 100 losses!

  42. Eastside Suds on November 14th, 2013 3:27 pm

    Another year of having a Morse, Ibanez, Bay, Morales, Montero five-headed leviathan (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and the Mariners will be dropping 100 games without anyone in the stands to watch. Regardless of the stunning and euphoric experience one receives by visiting Howard Lincoln’s pleasure palace, hideous baseball is still hideous. They had better take a philosophical U-turn for everyone’s sake!

    As for the rumours, yes they are just that. I can’t help but feel at least a little bit of encouragement. Can’t I dream at least? :)

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