The six-time All-Star we know simply as “Boomstick” is now 40 years old but his performance has not slowed down at all since he left Seattle. As he hits the open market, could the Mariners have interest in bringing the Dominican designated hitter back?
Nelson Cruz has had one of the more up and down careers in baseball history. It took him years to break through with the Texas Rangers and cement himself as one of the better right fielders in the league.
His stats were good but not great for the Rangers and he made 2 All-Star teams in his 8 seasons plus he won the ALCS MVP once and was a key player for the Rangers short reign over the American League. As he entered free agency for the first time he was coming off of a season where he was suspended 50 games for the use of P.E.D.’s and this led him to sign a one-year deal in Baltimore because of the Rangers and other team’s doubts.
After his one All-Star season with the Orioles, he signed with the Mariners for four years. His nickname and subsequent Dave Simms home run call of “Boomstick Baby!” turned him into one of the more beloved Mariners in the franchises’ history.
He made the All-Star team three times in his four years in Seattle, led the league in RBI’s once, and only had an OPS under .900 one season. He moved on to Twins in 2019 signing a two-year deal that has now expired.
So does a Nelson Cruz reunion make sense for both sides?
My answer is yes. The only problem of course is, would Nelson sign on the dotted line in Seattle as opposed to other more “win-now” teams?
There are now potentially 30 teams looking for a designated hitter for 2021 instead of the usual 15, as the National League could possibly adopt the DH going forward. This of course drives up Nelson’s value despite him not playing a single game in the field since he left the Mariners in 2018. He has also expressed interest in returning to Minnesota, and the feeling is mutual.
Cruz’s career is obviously coming to an end and he still is of immense value to teams who can look past his defense. He finished 2019 playing in 120 games at age 38 with a 1.031 OPS which led him to ninth in MVP voting. He did however regress in 2020 to a .992 OPS and 16 home runs in 53 games. No, seriously I am just kidding, that is insane as a 39-year-old, and the stats back it up as his OPS puts him third all-time for OPS age 39+ behind Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.
The signing would make sense for the Mariners as you would have to believe that Jose Marmolejos, who finished 2020 with a .672 OPS, is not the long term solution at DH. On top of that, Jerry Dipoto has made it sound as if the Mariners are going to go for it this year, and this would certainly be a “go for it” move.
The Mariners will also free up some money as they are not going to re-sign Dee Strange-Gordon and they could then feel more at peace spending on a fan favorite like Nelson Cruz for just one year.
If the Mariners could sign Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal worth $10-15 million, promising him that every game he plays will be as a DH, and that if things go south record-wise he will be out the door before the trade deadline, no one will be unhappy. The signing of Nelson Cruz by the Mariners could be that spark that they need to push their offense onto the level of a playoff team.