The Seattle Mariners had a below average offense last year, but still managed to win 90 games, as they had one of the best bullpens in baseball to keep their small leads. They won tons of close games, and would lose big a lot. They need to add to their offense in 2022 if they expect to make the playoffs. One familiar name on the free agent market is aging slugger Nelson Cruz, but Mariners fans should not want him to come back to the organization now.
Nelson Cruz is certainly a good hitter, and one of the best designated hitters in the game of baseball, but the Mariners should not bring in a player that does not have any positional versatility.
Cruz would have to play every game at designated hitter for the Mariners, and they can’t afford to do that next year; they need to use that spot to rotate players through, such as those coming off of injury.
The Tampa Bay Rays tried out Cruz at first base for less than one game in 2021, but he would probable not ever do that for the Mariners, as that would relegate Ty France (who is significantly better defensively compared to Cruz) to the designated hitter spot. First base is the only position that Cruz, a former outfielder, has played in the field since 2018.
The last time Nelson Cruz played right field was back in 2018 when he was still a Seattle Mariner. This is not a great sign. He not only hasn’t played right field in years, but he also is now closing in on turning 42. He would not only be a defensive liability, but also a massive injury risk. It would be not fair to expect good defense from a 42 year old Nelson Cruz.
The Mariners need to add someone who can play in the outfield and give them value there, and Cruz does not. Other free agents or trade possibilities are out there that would make more sense for the Mariners; Japanese sensation Seiya Suzuki, Michael Conforto, or another option like Garrett Hampson all would provide more value for the Mariners than Cruz.
With his age, it is a possibility that Cruz has a decline in his offensive production. He still was worth 2.5 WAR last season and hit 32 home runs, but his normally +.300 batting average fell to .265. He has seemed to defy Father Time for a long time, but Father Time is undefeated and will never lose. Even the greats have their declines. Edwin Encarnacion, a similar type of player to Nelson Cruz, fell off a cliff fast and is now out of Major League Baseball.
If Nelson Cruz played 150 games at designated hitter, it would plug up the Mariners roster, forcing players like Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, and Luis Torrens to play in the field to get at-bats. Even though he was once a Mariner and has been a really good hitter for other teams, Cruz is too risky for Seattle and they should go in another direction.