Baseball season is over but teams are already getting ready for next year, including the Seattle Mariners who made their first big purchase of the season.
According to ESPN.com, the Mariners and Nelson Cruz, free agent and outfielder, have agreed to a four-year, $57 million deal that includes a $1 million signing bonus. The Mariners are expected to make an official announcement today (Dec. 4), as long as Cruz passes his physical.
Now that Cruz, 34, has a Mariner jersey and ball cap, he will bring some power to Seattle’s batting order, which is one of the things the team needs if they want to make a big run next season.
This isn’t the first time the Mariners approached Cruz. Prior to the 2014 season, Seattle offered him a five-year, $75 million deal, which he turned down in favor of a one-year, $8 million with Baltimore. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles offered a three-year contract extension, which remained on the table until after the season. They also made Cruz a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying deal, which he rejected. If Cruz signs with Seattle — or any other team — Baltimore will receive draft-pick compensation.
As an Oriole, Cruz led the league with 40 home runs and finished third in the American League with 108 RBIs. He was also the 2011 American League Championship Series MVP and a three-time All-Star.
There are some risks to signing Cruz, one being his past with performance enhancing drugs. In 2013, Cruz was one of nine players who tested positive for PEDs, and was suspended for 50 games that season. I don’t think Cruz will be much of a risk in that aspect as long as he keeps his nose clean.
Some critics have cited Cruz’s age as a risk to the Mariners. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times said Cruz is reaching 35 years old, which is when hitters “of his skill-set often begin to decline precipitously.”
Stone argues that Cruz’s hitting declined in the second half of the season compared to the first half — Cruz’s on-base plus slugging (OPS) was .769, at the end of the season, compared to .923 before the All-Star break.
Comparing the two-halves of the season shows decline, but Cruz’s has improved in the last few years. His overall OPS for 2014 was .859, the highest it has been since 2010.
If Cruz’s age is truly a concern for the Mariners, it would be a good idea for the team to keep him in the designated hitter spot and only use him in the outfield as a backup.
Despite the risks, Seattle fans expressed their excitement as did Mariners’ utility hitter Willie Bloomquist, who went on Twitter and wrote that Cruz “helps fill our need for some RH (right-handed) thump in our lineup.”
Another thing that’s making Mariner fans happy is the team’s seven-year, $100-million contract extension offer to infielder Kyle Seager. Seager is coming off a strong 2014 with 25 home runs with 96 RBIs. He also made his first appearance in the All-Star Game and won his first Rawlings Gold Glove.
If nothing else, adding Cruz and keeping Seager on the roster will help the Mariners’ chances of having making the postseason — which should be their primary focus next year. Last season they finished 87-75 and third in the American League West but missed the playoffs. They shouldn’t worry about winning a World Series just yet.
With Seager and Cruz, the Mariners have at least 1-2 signings left in the offseason. Hopefully they can get a dependable outfielder to prevent them from using Cruz too much, and a solid pitcher to increase their depth in the bullpen.