The Seattle Mariners signed free agent slugger Nelson Cruz to a four-year $57 million dollar contract, but was it a mistake?
On the surface the first answer is absolutely not. Nelson Cruz led the Majors with 40 home runs in 2014. He helped propel the Baltimore Orioles all the way the American League Championship Series.
Seattle missed the playoffs by a single game, losing the second A.L. Wild Card spot to the Oakland Athletics on the final day of the season.
They also passed on signing Nelson Cruz prior to the 2014 season. A deal was in place but the ownership pulled out at the last moment because of Cruz’s link to performance enhancing drugs. He was suspended for 50 games in 2013 for PED use.
However, without the drugs Cruz hit a career-high in home runs for Baltimore and a few of those home runs could have helped Seattle win the extra games necessary to grab that last playoff spot and they know it.
So this time the Mariners have given Cruz what he wanted, a mutli-year contract and a lot of money because they’ve learned their lesson and desperately want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The question remains though, was it smart to give Nelson Cruz a four year deal? Cruz will be 34 on July 1st and 37 in the final year of his contract. That doesn’t sound so bad at first but ESPN’s Keith Law pointed out a couple reasons why Cruz at 37 will not be the same as Cruz at 33 and 34.
Cruz is not the type of player who is going to age well. He isn’t especially athletic and he has below average defensive skills, meaning he’ll likely be playing as a DH during the last years of his contract.
Also, Cruz is primarily a fastball hitter. Another thing that often deteriorates with age is bat speed. If Cruz can’t maintain his bat speed he’ll not longer be able to hit as many fastballs and his production will drop and he’ll no longer be the powerhouse that Seattle has now signed.
I see Law’s points and they are completely valid and likely to happen. Almost inevitable, actually.
Suppose the Mariners don’t care that by the final year of his contract that Cruz, as Law put it,
“won’t be worth the roster spot, let alone the $14.25 million”
The Mariners also had to give up a their first round draft pick to get Cruz, who rejected the qualifying offer extended to him by the Orioles. That’s a lot of money plus a draft pick, so was it worth it?
I’d say yes. The Mariners just want to make the playoffs which will be difficult in the highly competitve A.L. West but if Cruz has a year like he did in 2014 they may be able to get there.
With “King” Felix Hernandez leading their rotation, Fernando Rodney to close, plus Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano in the lineup alongside Cruz the Mariners have a good set up for 2015 and very likely 2016.
Money isn’t a huge issue for Seattle so, for them, I can see it being worth it to be guarenteed at least two good years out of Cruz to be able to make the playoffs and if they have to basically eat the rest of his salary well, they will deal with it if it comes to that.
The Mariners want the postseason and they want it now. Cruz can help them get there so they gave him what he wanted to get him to sign and hopefully, for the Mariners, Cruz will help get them to the postseason.