#4: Nelson Cruz: 2015-2018: 4yrs/$57 million, 17.1 WAR, $74.67m Surplus, $18.67m surplus per season
It seems crazy, right? That Cruz may have been worth $32 million a season? Well, higher WAR players are actually underpaid, as you can see by something the FiveThirtyEight published that same offseason when Bryce Harper had a staggering surplus value of $72.9 million… in just that season.
Everyone around the league knew that Cruz had power, and the potential for a good average as well. He had a 45 HR season in 2012 with the Rangers, and a .318 BA in 2010 with them as well. He just hadn’t combined them at any point. There were also some worries after Cruz had been suspended in 2013, although the legitimacy of the Biogenesis case is one that’s still questioned.
With the assorted concerns (albeit mild ones) around Cruz, the Mariners were able to ink the then 33-year-old to a 4yr/$57m deal. He had just finished 7th in the MVP voting the year before and was coming off a one-year deal with the Orioles where he went .271/.333/.525 with 40 HR and 108 RBI.
The Mariners would end up getting three of the four best seasons in Cruz’s career during his first three years of the contract. A slash line of .292/.368/.557, where he would average 42 HR, 106 RBI, 92 R, and 26 2B per season. His worst HR season over that stretch was 2017 with 39, but he led the league in RBI with 119, which isn’t too shabby of a trade-off.
The Mariners decided not to re-sign him, and Cruz would go onto the Twins where he would continue to rake. Maybe Cruz would’ve had a second entrance on best contracts, as he easily would’ve been worth the 2yr/$26m the Twins paid him. For now, he takes the #4 spot on best contracts for the Mariners.