Cruz-ing down the wrong path

Brent Atkinson | Evergreen columnist

The Seattle Mariners’ personnel moves during the past decade and a half, since their magical 2001 season, seems as if they have done nothing but continually sabotage the roster with terrible trades and ridiculous signings. 

For those who don’t know of some of the Mariners’ past head scratchers, let’s take a look at some of the failings of management.

Richie Sexson, Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro are just a few of the many players who were either signed or traded but ended up never panning out as a Mariner. All of which were drastically overpaid.

Then there were the two trades that first sent the currently very successful shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Cleveland Indians and a month later sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland as well.

While Bill Bavasi was the man that completed most of these dreadful moves during the past 14 years, the current Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik may add to the list if they follow through with signing Texas Rangers’ right fielder Nelson Cruz.

Cruz was off to a monster start in 2013, hitting 27 homeruns along with 76 RBIs through the first four months of the season before being suspended for 50 games for performance-enhancing drug use.  If he had not been suspended, and we assume that Cruz plays 45 of those 50 games he was theoretically on pace to finish the season with approximately 38 homeruns and more than 100 RBIs, which are both career highs for the veteran.

While this seems appealing on paper, it may prove to be nothing but the addition of another cash cow to the Mariners’ lineup. Cruz is now 33 years old and heading into the backend of his productive hitting days, which means that unless he is able to do as the ageless Raul Ibanez has done during the past few years of his career, Cruz’s numbers will likely plummet.

Cruz was hoping to get a four year contract worth $75 million, approximately $18.75 million per season. Reports have indicated that he will have to settle for much less. However, if Seattle offers him anywhere near the $14 million qualifying offer made by the Rangers, they would still be overpaying him drastically by the third year of his contract. Not to mention, if Seattle signs Cruz they will also be forced to give up a draft pick in the MLB rookie draft in June.

Now there’s the production aspect and where exactly Cruz would fit into Seattle’s lineup. Chances are that Cruz does not want to be a fulltime designated hitter just yet and will want to receive a certain amount of playing time on the field. This would mean Seattle’s slow, old, and all together horrid 2013 outfield may add another aging and slowing veteran as a starter in either right or left field. 

The next and probably most important concern is whether Cruz will produce at the plate, which is the ultimate reason Seattle would sign the veteran slugger. The big question mark is whether Cruz will be the same player after getting off the PEDs and serving a 50-game suspension. 

While the specific reasons are unclear, players in the past have seen their careers dwindle and more or less end after getting busted for PEDs. Whether this is due to not having the PEDs or simply never getting back into the right place mentally is unclear. Nonetheless, it has happened before and with Cruz’s age is a possibility to happen here. 

Additionally, in 86 games Cruz has hit a heinous .198 and just two homeruns at Safeco Field during the past three years as a member of their division rival Rangers. Cruz hits an even worse .194 at Oakland, which is a team Seattle plays 19 times per season as a division rival. 

The odds are stacked against Nelson Cruz being successful in Seattle, but the chances of him signing with the club are increasing by the day. If Seattle does sign Cruz then all Mariners fans can do is hope for the best as they always do, and hope even more that it is a short term contract for Cruz.