Despite the fact that the free agent class heading into the winter was thin to begin with, there are still a few notable names out there to be had on the market. As far as hitters are concerned, Nelson Cruz represents one of those names. Even with the lingering cloud of his recent PED suspension still following him around, Cruz has garnered some interest around the league, though nothing has turned serious to date.
Cruz was suspended for the last 50 games of the regular season last year. While it’s easy to point to that as the reason he doesn’t have a deal yet, Jhonny Peralta was quick to get a massive contract from the St. Louis Cardinals despite the fact that he was also in the handful of players that were dealt suspensions stemming from the Biogenesis mess of last year.
There are multiple reasons that Cruz doesn’t have a deal yet. His PED suspension could be one. Another appears to be his contract demands. He wants a multi-year deal, and it was believed that his desired total was in the neighborhood of $70-80 million, though it remains to be seen if he is still looking for something that high. The negative stigma surrounding his defensive ability is another potential reason that he doesn’t have a deal yet (more on that later). Durability may also be something of a question, as well as his high strikeout numbers.
For every reason that teams may have been avoiding Nelson Cruz, however, there is a reason that he’d be a welcome addition for a handful of teams. He brings plenty of power to the table, of course, with a particularly impressive 27 home runs in just 109 games last season. He does get on base, as he reached at a .327 clip last season. His defense isn’t great, but isn’t quite as bad as advertised. With a UZR at about -4 last year, he floats around in that average-to-below-average range. He’s not terrible with the glove.
Nelson Cruz is going to get a contract at some point. It’s just a matter of where he lands and whether or not he gets that multi-year deal he desires. Every day that spring training creeps closer, the chances of Cruz having to settle for a one-year deal increase. If that were the case, and he were willing to accept a one-year pact, the market for him could open a bit more than it currently is.
The two teams we hear in the mix most often for him are the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners. But neither appears to be ready to spend big money on anyone, and the Mariners have already stated their focus on complimentary players. His former club, the Texas Rangers, could be a strong option if he accepts a one-year deal. Don’t sleep on the Houston Astros either. While the interest is primarily going to come from American League teams, due to the obvious, someone like the Chicago Cubs could make some sense for him as well.
It’ll be interesting to see how the market for Nelson Cruz continues to develop. Does a team buck up and offer him a big deal, or will he have to settle? With pitchers and catchers due to report in just a few weeks, we could be nearing answer on the Cruz front soon.
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