Nelson Cruz: the 4th worst signing of the MLB offseason?


Though many Seattle Mariners fans are excited about the signing of Nelson Cruz— aka Boomstick– this offseason, the deal isn’t without its potential pitfalls.

Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron– a Mariners fan– listed his 10 worst transactions of the 2015 offseason.

#1 was the Padres acquisition of Matt Kemp— and the prospect cost it incurred. #2 was the 4-year deal the Atlanta braves handed out to Nick Markakis. And #3 was the Max Scherzer signing by the loaded Washington Nationals.

And clocking in at his 4th worst transaction of the 2015 offseason, Cameron chose the 4-year, $58 million deal the Seattle Mariners gave to Nelson Cruz.

Here is what he had to say:

"Yes, Nelson Cruz had a great year in 2014, and if he does anything close to what he did in Baltimore, the Mariners will be fine with this deal. But his pre-Baltimore track record is filled with mediocrity, and there is no worse place in baseball for an aging right-handed slugger than Safeco Field. Perhaps he’ll give the Mariners enough production to justify the salary for 2015, and maybe even for 2016 if they’re lucky, but the last two years of this deal are likely going to be a disaster, and there just isn’t enough value at the front to make up for it. Seattle decided they wanted a very specific skillset, except that skillset isn’t worth what it costs on the open market. Now, they’re left to hope that Cruz can keep having career years in his mid-30s rather than reverting back to the average (or below average) player that his track record suggests."

The biggest concern with Cruz is two-fold: his age and his skillset.

Cruz is on the wrong side of 30 at age 34, and he is not an athletic, contact hitter. He’s a thick power guy, the type of player whose decline is swifter and more final than most other body types.

Cameron suggests that Cruz has been a very mediocre player over his 10 seasons in the MLB. Looking into his career numbers his statement bears some weight.

Nelson Cruz has been worth more than 4.0 WAR twice in his career– once in 2010 with the Rangers and then again last season with the Baltimore Orioles.

But over his 10 seasons he has a cumulative 16.6 WAR, meaning he has averaged a mere 1.66 WAR per Major League seasons. That is, well, decidedly average. Kyle Seager, in just 4 Major League seasons, already has a total of 13.1 WAR.

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Cruz was brought in to do two things: provide right-handed power in the middle of the Mariners lineup, and protect Robinson Cano in the batting order.

Even if he doesn’t have career years for the next four seasons, Cruz can do what the Mariners need him to do: hit home runs. His home run rate at Safeco Field is actually one of the best for visiting right-handed hitters in the ballparks career.

Maybe he becomes a liability in the last two seasons of the contract, and in the end it will be a bad signing that cost the Mariners too much money for the value.

But if he solidifies the Mariners lineup in 2015 and 2016, and they find themselves winning a ring or two with the Boomstick in the middle of the order– those extra two years worth $29 million won’t seem to matter as much.