A Lukewarm Take on the Nelson Cruz Signing
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