The company I work for still uses Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office 2010. Pretty sure the IE is version 8, so I can’t actually do the research I wanted to do before writing this post, and I’m not going to have time later. I am hoping that maybe Daniel will have some words about this one that he can add to this space to balance out my generally uninformed excitement about who we sign, for how much, and why.
First of all, I think it’s important for anyone reading this to know that I have really stopped caring about money and the Mariners. The general thought is that there is some sort of cap on money and that we can never afford to spend a whole lot of it on free agents or players people consider big names; but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I remember people being really concerned about this a while ago, people who kept referring to the Mariners as a “small market team”. But we still managed to nab Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee that year, and make a few other deals, and come out over budget, and the only thing that imploded was the Mariners’ 2010 season; but that had nothing to do with the budget. We spent money, we got what Jack wanted, and that was that. It didn’t really impede the future and what we could spend all that much. So I don’t care about money. We’re already looking at a payroll of around $100 million by opening day, and I think they’ll trade or add more before then (add more than trade, from what I’ve heard). We’re not done yet, and it’s not my money, so I don’t really care what they spend. Do I think that grown men playing a kids game are overpaid? Sure, I do; but I have no control over it, so there is no reason for me to worry. All I am concerned about is the final product they put on the field, and how that works out for us for the six months they’re there.
I like the fact that Nelson Cruz is going to be wearing Mariners colors for the next 3-4 years. That is the simple version of what I have to say here. But nothing is every quite so simple in baseball, is it?
Nelson Cruz had a phenomenal year this year with the Baltimore Orioles. He really did. He wound up with a WAR of 3.9, his second best since 2010, where he was a 4.9 with the Rangers, which is where I learned to fear him; then again, we were awful that year, so pretty much everyone was scary. Projections for 2015 have him falling back to earth at 1.5 WAR and 637 plate appearances, but I’m not sure he’ll get that many here. My understanding thus far is that a lot of people have him pegged as a DH while the Mariners look for a nice reliable right fielder. Michael Saunders is viewed as a possible trade chip (though I hope we don’t lose him, as I like his outfield flexibility, and the way he runs the outfield in general). Cruz had a line last year of .271/.333/.525 and an OPS of .859; his projected for next year is .256/.317/.471, with an OPS of .788. He hit 40 HR last year and is pegged for 30 in 2015. We have signed him for four years and $57M. And though I don’t care about money, this is where things get sketchy for me.
Cruz is 34 years old. $57M and four years seems like a good deal…if he was 30. When I got the news on my phone earlier today, all I saw was that we had signed him, and I figured it was for a one year deal, veteran presence, all of that. I would not have pegged us spending that kind of contract time on him at all. I would have been happier if it was maybe two years, three tops. That’s the quick and dirty version of my hesitance, without being to really looking into things in as much depth as I would ultimately like to. But is he a good replacement for Kendrys Morales? You’re damn right he is. Is it possible he could continue a bit of his streak from last year and come out over his projections? Of course, that is part of what makes baseball great; anything can happen. Does Cruz still have to prove himself as a Mariner to me? Absolutely; but I am glad he is going to be able to do that, and I am now looking forward to 2015 even more than I was to begin with.
I also think this signing says something to the players and the fans, which is that we may finally be willing to throw some money at our problems, and that may also bring more players to be interested in playing here. Throwing money at things isn’t always a negative. I know that small money for larger (aka; hidden) value is always more preferable, but sometimes you have to demonstrate that you’re willing to show a bit of respect to the players, and now we have Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz all paid up and ready to go. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a fine start to me.