It’s very easy to look at Nelson Cruz‘s career stats and easily be impressed, but teams must be very careful when looking at Nelson Cruz this offseason. One team that needs to be extra careful is the Seattle Mariners.
The Seattle Mariners have surprised many this offseason by going all in after signing all-star second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract, the third highest contract in Major League Baseball History. They have also added first basemen/outfielders Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. However, after all of these acquisitions, the Mariners’ lineup still feels a little bit weak, especially in a now extremely competitive American League West.
Originally on the Mariners’ radar were Outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, but now that both of those players have signed elsewhere, the only big name free agent is Nelson Cruz. Cruz turned down the Rangers’ qualifying offer earlier this offseason and has stated that he wants a contract paying about 15 to 16 million dollars per season. The Mariners offered him just that when they offered a 5-year deal worth 75 million. Luckily for them, Nelson Cruz declined.
Nelson Cruz is coming off of a 50-game suspension for PED’s, so his true talent is really unclear. Additionally, Cruz is also one of the more injury prone players in the MLB, as he’s played over 130 games only one time in his career. Regardless of his suspension and injury history, Cruz still just isn’t what the Mariners need to improve their team.
Last season, the Mariners were dead last in the American League after hitting just .237, but they ranked second in home runs with 188. These stats clearly show that the Mariners need hitters who can get on base consistently, rather than just belt balls out of the park and enjoy 0-4′s every other day. Career wise, Nelson Cruz averages 32 home runs over 162 games, but posts an on base percentage of only .327. It also doesn’t help that he strikes out far more than the average American League Hitter.
Additionally, he has played almost his entire career in Arlington, a hitter’s park. Away from home, Cruz is only a career .242 hitter, and at Safeco, he is just a .238 hitter in 48 games played.
While the lineup still needs improvement, the area where the Mariners need to improve in the most is the Outfield. Each year the Mariners pitchers are hurt by lack of defense in the outfield, and it doesn’t look like it will be much better in 2014. After missing out on every center fielder available, the Mariners look like they will have to stick former second baseman Dustin Ackley in Center, while platooning Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders, and Corey Hart in Right and Left Field. Adding Nelson Cruz to the mix could only make the outfield one of the worst in major league history.
While his advanced statistics like UZR and his ability to throw out runners going from first to third may show that he is a good defender, he defensive runs saved are well into the negatives.
Nelson Cruz’s best option was to accept the Rangers’ qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason and get a chance to win, but now that the team has signed Nelson Cruz and traded for Michael Choice, there does not seem to be room for him anymore. His asking price also seems far too high for other teams to take a chance on him coming off of this 50-game suspension. However, the Mariners are still interested in Cruz, so it will be interesting to see if they do make the mistake of overpaying him and giving him the chance to bust.