A Lukewarm Take on the Nelson Cruz Signing

Jay Yencich · December 1, 2014 at 3:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Given the timing, the weather, and my own sentiments, “lukewarm” is about all that I could muster at this point. Unless you have been hiding under a hole in the ground for the last several hours, you are probably aware at this point that the Mariners have made an offering to free agent Nelson Cruz of four years and $57 million. Not an offering of blood sacrifice on a flaming pyre. Different kind of offering. Except we did lose the #19 draft pick to the Orioles, so there’s that.

Nelson Cruz is cashing in on an age-33 season in which he led the American League in home runs for the Baltimore Orioles. He took that one-year contract in order to build up some credibility as to his general health and well-being as an offensive producer and has succeeded. He is now, presumably, financially secure through his age-37 season although he’ll turn 38 that July. From there, who knows, except that he’ll be $57 million dollars richer. Plenty of smart people have already analyzed this move, in terms of the money offered and in terms of the Mariners player archetypes and the risks involved.

My schtick is more attuned to the minor league side of things and with that I have this much to say. The Mariners have long had a depth issue in the realm of outfielders. We have tried patching this with the likes of Abraham Almonte, Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, and Casper Wells (miss u) with little success over the years. It wasn’t until two Junes ago that the Mariners began to start addressing this matter through the draft with Austin Wilson and Tyler O’Neill, but as we all well know, development is something that takes time due to player adjustments and unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes, for example, players try to punch holes through walls.

Of our various bits of outfield depth at the moment, Gabriel Guerrero is probably at least two years away from being a viable contributor to the team in the outfield. Julio Morban remains an enigma for his inability to play more than 90 games annually, ever. James Jones is James Jones. It’s unlikely that we’ll have to worry about a declining Nelson Cruz so much as blocking anyone until late in the contract, barring an improbable meteoric rise by Alex Jackson. By then, we’ll shift him into DH anyway and continue batting him fourth just like Kendrys Morales because it’s the principle of the matter.

Here’s the other consideration. Had the Mariners not invested the four years and mucho dinero in Sr. Cruz, they would have likely gone into further talks on the trade market for Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and the like. Using past rumors as template, the deals probably would have been for Walker+ and would have provided little long-term security on the investment. We presently have Cruz coming off one of his best seasons and have retained our trade chips. The core now includes Seager, Cano, and Cruz on offense, and likely Felix, Paxton, and Walker in the rotation, with a couple of those guys being pretty cheap. That’s not a bad starting point looking forward in the next few years and gets us into the conversation when projecting the top of the AL West standings.

The Nelson Cruz contract will last us four years. My reckoning has that as two years longer than I would have liked and one year longer than I was personally comfortable with. But the Cano contract has already pushed us into “win now” territory and we have done so without blocking prospects or significantly jeopardizing the team’s future. This is probably our big signing, and we may not do much more other than gather incidental pieces for the rotation, outfield, and first base/DH. That’s probably okay. The Mariners project pretty well at least through the next couple of years as it stands.

P.S. Please DH Cruz/don’t trade Saunders oh please oh please oh please

Comments

15 Responses to “A Lukewarm Take on the Nelson Cruz Signing”

  1. Typical Idiot Fan on December 1st, 2014 3:55 pm

    Except we did lose the #19 draft pick to the Orioles, so there’s that.

    That doesn’t happen anymore.

  2. sexymarinersfan on December 1st, 2014 3:57 pm

    Cruz got what, 50 games last year in the OF? I doubt they use him much in the OF. I agree whole heartedly on keeping Michael Saunders. I’m not too worried about losing our 1st rd draft pick, as our M’s scouts are like our neighbors the Seahawks. They just draft well in the later rounds.

    I’d still like us to pick up some more solid back up catching depth for Mike Zunino. I love his defense, but I little faith in whatever kind of contribution Jesus Sucre is expected to deliver.

    This probably closes the door on Torii Hunter, but put me in the camp for I hope it doesn’t. I know he’s not that good of defender like he was years ago, but I value his stick. Either that or try and grab Shane Victorino some how from Boston.

    I’m okay with us overpaying for Cruz. This is southeast Alaska after all. This makes Cano and the lineup better as well as Seattle a more attractive place for players to come to for a playoff run.

  3. Jay Yencich on December 1st, 2014 4:12 pm

    That doesn’t happen anymore.

    The blood offering’s still totally cool though, right? Just keep PETA in the dark and…?

  4. Typical Idiot Fan on December 1st, 2014 4:14 pm

    The blood offering’s still totally cool though, right? Just keep PETA in the dark and…?

    Ya stay away from mah chickens, ya hear!

  5. maqman on December 1st, 2014 4:25 pm

    The M’s have some decent bats in their farm system that will arrive as Cruz becomes less productive, he’s the bridge to them that they required. They will also increase their revenue from all sources with him as opposed to what they would receive without him. He’s not cheap or perfect but he is adequate for their needs at this point in their revival.

  6. Jay Yencich on December 1st, 2014 4:28 pm

    Ya stay away from mah chickens, ya hear!

    Oh I was just… there was a mishap… with a pillow…

  7. Edward Baker on December 1st, 2014 4:45 pm

    There is a lot of risk and some very big rewards in this deal. Pitchers aside, Cruz was the biggest fish in the free agent sea, and JZ reeled him in. Good for JZ and the Mariners.
    It´s a risky deal and to nail it down they had to overpay him, not in dollars so much as in years. Four is plainly one too many, but it had to be.
    If the M´s management plays Cruz so much as one game in the outfield they should be taken out and shot.
    An overlooked upside to the deal is that they set Jesús Montero to selling icecream sandwiches next season, and end much to be desired.

  8. just a fan on December 1st, 2014 5:06 pm

    We only lost the 21st pick, not the 19th. So it’s OK.

    At least we didn’t trade Walker for Matt Kemp only to watch .265/18 dinger Matt Kemp play bad CF defense, while Taijuan helps Clayton Kershaw win a World Series.

  9. hailcom on December 1st, 2014 5:15 pm

    Actually, I believe it had become the 19th pick as a result of 2 clubs ahead of us losing their picks through FA signings. Even so, this is the kind of gamble the Ms should have taken to take advantage of the prime years of Cano and Felix. I may be an optimistic SOB, but the Seager signing followed by this one suggests to me that the Root Sports money is indeed expected to flow and, therefore, putting a good TV product on the field suddenly becomes a priority. Good baseball and good business. I agree with Jay in almost all respects on this, but believe he may be wrong about how much more the Ms may do. I think we simply cannot know what $$ they are willing to spend on their primetime baseball team when they could reap big profits with a world series contender…

  10. Jordan on December 1st, 2014 5:16 pm

    Was the 21st but now it’s the 19th pick because of other signings that have happened…

  11. PackBob on December 1st, 2014 5:21 pm

    If the deal for Cruz includes a goodbye to Saunders, I like the deal much less.

    With Cruz at DH, the M’s have one kind of team that makes for a good team: no obvious black holes sucking up potential WAR. I like an outfield with Ackley/Jackson/Saunders from left to right, and maybe a fill-in once in a while by Cruz in left.

    The only real questions left are 1B and maybe a starting pitcher. They still have a good trade chip with Miller/Taylor and a relief pitcher/prospects to make a push for pitching.

    It all seems pretty good going into 2015, and better with Cruz than without Cruz.

  12. Longgeorge1 on December 1st, 2014 6:25 pm

    “If the M´s management plays Cruz so much as one game in the outfield they should be taken out and shot” —- We do play against NL teams and OF COURSE the World Series so in those games he needs to play the OF.

    The M’s record in ’14 was deceptively good. With the Yanks and BoSox and especially the Rangers having unusually bad years the M’s might have been “gifted” as many as 10 wins over a usual year. We can’t afford to sit still just to even stay where we are.

    Cruz costs us a pick, which might be just another bust ( or a HOF). We can’t sit still. Everyone who has ever made a decision has made a mistake. There is very little downside with this move.

  13. bookbook on December 1st, 2014 9:46 pm

    You argue against the move, Mr. George. There’s little reason to spend megabucks to take the M’s from a 77-win team to the much desired 79-win plateau.

  14. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2014 9:52 pm

    There is very little downside with this move.

    I’m sure a bunch of Angels fans were saying this two years ago about the Josh Hamilton signing.

    Incidentally, Hamilton is one of his B-R comps.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/scomp_bat.cgi?I=cruzne02:Nelson+Cruz&st=age&age=-34&compage=33

    Basically, that comp list is Jayson Werth being good, Jeromy Burnitz having a good season at Coors Field (pretty sure Safeco is never going to be that kind of hitter’s park), and various bad players.

    There’s nothing that says that Cruz won’t go into the tank at age 34 like any number of baseball players.

    The logic of the team doing this is pretty obvious because of the Cano, Seager and Felix signings (this team wants to make a run, the revenue’s there), but it’s silly to think there aren’t downside risks. Cruz could be a below-average DH making almost 15 million a year as soon as this year, or he might be good. We’ll get to find out soon enough.

  15. Westside guy on December 1st, 2014 10:52 pm

    While I do not particularly like this signing, the terms certainly aren’t going to cripple the team even if Cruz tanks in 2015.

    Hamilton may be a comp as a player, but fortunately his contract isn’t a comp for what the Mariners offered Cruz!

    However a lot of pundits believe the team isn’t done, so let’s hold off the collective sigh of relief until the offseason is over. Remember, Jack first signed Willie Boom Boom, and then somehow managed to make an even BIGGER splash a few weeks later! ;-)

    I still expect Saunders to be traded away.

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