Last year around this time, there were reports that the Seattle Mariners really wanted slugger Nelson Cruz, and may have even made him a substantial four or five-year offer. Maybe those reports were always suspect, but Cruz wound up finding that his market collapsed given his PED suspension, age, and lack of OBP skills. So, he had to settle for a one-year, sub-qualifying-offer-level deal with the Orioles.
And then he hit .271/.333/.525 with a 137 wRC+.
It’s understandable, then, that teams would be interested in his bat, even as he’s set to turn 35 next year. But would the Mariners come back around again with a multi-year offer? According to a report out of the Dominican Republic, tacitly endorsed by ESPN’s Enrique Rojas, the answer is yes. A big yes.
That report has the Mariners and Cruz agreeing on a four-year, $57 million deal. That is, once again, huge money for a guy who’s only skill is power, and who is well past prime age. Such is the state of offense and the desire for power in baseball these days. I can’t even bring myself to call that a crazy contract. I’m not even sure I can call it a bad contract. It might be a good contract. That’s how much we’re in a transitional stage in offensive valuation and available dollars in the game.
The Mariners were heavy into the market for a bat, so this kind of thing was expected on their part, and could take them out of the outfield trade market. If this report proves true, it once again leaves the Orioles looking for a bat (they may not even re-sign Nick Markakis, according to recent rumors), and, with the Blue Jays and Red Sox making moves, you can expect the Orioles to do something this offseason. The move will dramatically improve the Mariners, by the way, who got awful production from their DHs last year. Do the Angels, A’s, Rangers, (and Astros) feel compelled to respond? The Angels could use another starter, the A’s need a middle infield bat, and the Rangers could upgrade in several places, including the rotation.
I remain fascinated by the way this offseason has played out, with bats flying off the shelves, and pitching waiting in the wings. I am fine with the Cubs going hard after Jon Lester, assuming they believe he is disproportionately better (and will age disproportionately better) than the other impact options out there this and next year. But I can’t shake the feeling that some teams are going to get some great deals on second tier pitching late in the offseason. Here’s hoping the Cubs are there to participate.
I also can’t shake the feeling that we’re fast-approaching an offense/power bubble, and I wonder if and when the Cubs will be able to take advantage of their stockpiles in that area. No, you don’t trade away guys you can actually accommodate in the lineup, but when valuations in a particular area get out of whack, savvy teams strike a counterbalance.