Now Here Is A Feeling I Didn’t Expect
When I was a teenager, I started working summers in a neuroscience lab, first as an internship, then because I wanted to. At that point I wanted to become a neuroscientist, and I loved the working environment, and especially my boss. I developed a number of pretty good personal relationships, and in time it turned into one of my social circles, and I’d look for reasons to spend more time at the institute. Sometimes a group of us would get together weekend mornings for work and pancakes. Sometimes we’d hang out after hours to watch a movie in the meeting room.
One Friday night we stuck around to watch a movie about Bigfoot while someone whipped up margaritas. I would’ve been 18 or 19. I didn’t get drunk, but I did drink, and shortly after the movie I got in my car to go home. It was a drive like any other, complete with casual speeding, until, blocks from my house, I saw lights go on behind me. It took a few seconds for me to realize that was about me, and I pulled over to the side, knowing I had been speeding, and worse. There could’ve still been alcohol on my breath. I knew there was a no-tolerance policy for underage drinking. My head wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but my heart was, and I felt this dreadful sense of imminent devastation. Surely, I was about to not be able to drive anymore. Surely, I was facing uncertain but certainly severe punishment. The police officer walked up to my window and it was like all of my organs chose to escape out the passenger side.
He asked for my license and registration, as you do, and I fumbled around for them in the glovebox. He asked if I knew I’d been speeding, and I nodded. He asked where I lived, and I said just two minutes away. He asked if I was in possession of any illegal drugs, and I said no, twice. I waited for the shoe to drop. Then he said he was giving me a warning, and I swear he almost smiled, and he sent me on my way. So I turned the car back on and drove home.
That’s basically how I feel about today’s Nelson Cruz news, except maybe in the end it has to be someone else getting pulled over and set free. Dread. Four solid months of dread. A couple weeks of accelerating terror. And then, abruptly, nothing. The Orioles signed Nelson Cruz. We were all prepared to hate whatever contract he was going to sign. They gave him a year and eight million. That’s…not so bad. That’s downright reasonable, considering.
All offseason long, no part of me wanted Nelson Cruz on the Mariners. Not for what it was certainly going to take. Now that he’s signed for what he signed for, there is actually a part of me that wonders, wait, should the Mariners have beat that? I didn’t think it would ever come to this, but here we are. The Mariners have Dustin Ackley in left and Logan Morrison at DH. Cruz probably would’ve made this team better. Would he have made this team at least $8 million better, plus a draft pick? I don’t know, but it’s crazy that I can even ask the question and have it not be ridiculous.
Ultimately, no, I still don’t think Cruz would’ve been worth it. But, man, he’d at least have been close. Relevantly, there are two considerations. One is that there were whispers a while ago that Cruz didn’t want to play in Seattle. Two is that, more recently, I’ve heard suggestions the Mariners’ alleged interest was overblown. That the Mariners weren’t as interested as the media said. Either or both would explain how Cruz wound up with $8 million, with reports that his own agents initiated the latest talks with Baltimore as if a market simply didn’t exist.
The Nelson Cruz inevitability didn’t materialize, and we don’t know how close it might’ve come, but given these final terms, the Mariners couldn’t have valued him too highly. Which is interesting, given what Jack Zduriencik said about Cruz the other week, but it’s possible he was just being nice. It’s also possible Zduriencik would’ve loved Cruz, for like five or six million. Zduriencik isn’t always nice, as evidenced by his recent comments about Jesus Montero, but then he’s trying to motivate Montero, who’s a member of the organization. Cruz is an unaffiliated stranger. There’s certainly no point in badmouthing a free agent.
So it’s interesting how Cruz wound up. It’s also interesting to hear the speculation about a Mariners reunion with Kendrys Morales. The Orioles looked like a great fit for Cruz or Morales, not both of them, so now Morales has lost a suitor. There’s not a lot left out there for him. There are rumors about the Pirates, but the Pirates don’t have a DH slot. There maybe should be rumors about the Rangers, but there aren’t. There are rumors about the Mariners, and the Mariners know that Morales can hit in Safeco Field.
It would be a weird fit, though. Right now, the Mariners are trying Corey Hart in right field, so the way things seem to line up is with Justin Smoak mostly at first and Logan Morrison mostly at DH. Re-sign Morales and you’ve got a roster squeeze, and then what do you do if Hart’s knees prove they can’t hold up? And the Mariners have made a somewhat big deal of trading for Morrison — just how low would they let that playing time go? He doesn’t make for an obvious platoon at first with Smoak. He’s hardly an outfielder. You could try to trade Morrison or Smoak, but there’s not much of a market, as evidenced by the Ike Davis talks, and as evidenced by the first Logan Morrison trade. If the Mariners signed Morales, he would make the team better instantly, but the roster would be confusing with another potential glut of 1B/DH types. It could all work out, but in ways that look weird given how the offseason has progressed from the start.
There are two reasons the Mariners might sign Morales: they know they can trust him, and there doesn’t seem to be a market for his services. He’d improve their odds in 2014. By how much, I don’t know. At what cost, I don’t know. Nelson Cruz cost a year and $8 million. For a while people thought he’d get eight or nine times that much. The FanGraphs community predicted 3yr/$32 million. Nelson Cruz dropped all the way to being almost a bargain. I’m going to stop trying to predict these things.
It seems like the Mariners might well be done making moves for the time being. It also seems like, the longer Morales is just sitting out there, the more the front office might try to figure out how things could work. They might even be able to connect it somehow to the Nick Franklin question that still demands an answer. Give the Mariners one thing: they keep it confusing, and confusion can be indistinguishable from deeply-felt interest.