It was reported that the Texas Rangers will make a qualifying offer to Nelson Cruz, which means they will receive draft pick compensation if Nelson departs the team as a free agent. If Cruz elects the offer he is entitled to a one year $14.1 million deal from the Rangers. During the last week of 2013 the Mets were in a bizzaro standings battle to finish with a bottom ten record in order to have their pick protected from situations such as Cruz. They were, we now know, up to the task, and can bid on Cruz without that obstacle. We hear Choo’s name much more, but does that make sense? What do you think, Jimmy, should Nelson Cruz be a target?
Just a quick word about the “qualifying offer,” for any readers who might be unclear. Essentially, after the last Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the requirements for free-agent compensation were overhauled because the old system — with Elias mysteriously slotting free agents into grades A, B, or C — was arcane and preposterous. Let me quote FanGraphs:
“If a team wants compensation for a lost free agent, it must extend to that free agent a qualifying offer. If the player subsequently declines the offer and/or signs with a new team, compensation will be received . . . The qualifying offer is a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries. This year, that average is $14/1 million . . . . If a player accepts the qualifying offer, that’s it, he’s signed. If a player doesn’t receive a qualifying offer, he’s free to sign anywhere and there’s no compensation to talk about. If a player declines the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, or if a player signs elsewhere within the Acceptance Period, then that’s where compensation becomes a thing.”
Well, to back up, my expectation is that the price for Choo will be too rich for Sandy’s blood. Whereas Cruz sort of fits. The last contract he signed was for two years, $16 million. During that time, he was suspended for PEDs. Sandy likes to shop at Target, not Tiffany’s, and Cruz fits the budget. The Ballpark at Arlington is well-known as a hitter’s park, and Cruz’s three-year home away splits are what you’d expect:
- Home (2011-13): .279/.340/.546
- Away (2011-13): .249/.299/.432
That is, at home he’s Edwin Encarnacion; while away he more or less becomes Mitch Moreland. There’s a tendency out there to put too much stock in home/away splits. My unscientific opinion is that the real player is somewhere in the middle. But it’s important to recognize the Mets would not be getting the production he enjoyed hitting in the Rangers’ bandbox. Adjust expectations accordingly. Citi Field is not kind to RH power hitters. However, Cruz crushes LHP (.951 OPS over past 3 seasons) and that’s a significant team need. He’s an authentic threat at the plate; a professional hitter.
Who would you rather have for the next two years? Nelson Cruz or Marlon Byrd?
All things being equal, I’d rather have Cruz. They both have the PED background so that is the same either way. With Cruz he will be leaving Arlington and it would be naive to believe that would have no effect. But Byrd has just had a nutty season, he has never done anything like what we saw in 2013. Cruz has an injury history, he misses time every season, but he has put up some real numbers for years. That consistency is worth something.
But that is the rub. That consistency leads me to believe that Cruz will get a three year contract, at a minimum. He already has a qualifying offer for one year at $14.1 million, the bidding starts there. I’ll give my prediction for his contract at three years $40 million. If we want to improve our team by April, 2014, Sandy, Jeff, Fred, and Saul are going to have to be ready to deal with reality. It is not going to be cheap.
When it comes to Byrd, I hope we pass. He was outstanding, and better yet we flipped him for prospects. When you make a killing in the casino you have to be able to walk away or you just lose it all back. That is how I feel about Marlon.
Because the $14.1 is a somewhat arbitrary number — yes, a team is willing to pay that for one year — I’m not convinced the bidding starts there. Three years at $30 might get it done. Also, we have not yet seen PED guys get much length in their contracts. That’s the real X-factor here. For reference, Melky Cabrera signed a two-year deal with the Blue Jays for $16 million just months after getting caught — and he badly under-performed. Maybe Cruz signs for 2/$24 with another organization. So I’m a little surprised by your 3 year/$40 million number. But you might be right, particularly when we consider the mad, mad, mad, mad world of baseball free agency. (Yeah, as a kid, I loved that movie.)
Last year the magic number was $13 million, which is the annual rate the Red Sox paid for Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli (before the medical issue forced new terms), and Ryan Dempster. The guy from that free agent period whom I wanted, by the way, was Jonny Gomes ($5 million). Because, like Cruz, Gomes is a gorilla against LHP.
Six experts over at CBS Sports made their predictions for the big free agents, and Mike Axisa — who? — picked the Mets for Nelson Cruz. Three experts picked the Phillies, with the other two teams listed as potential bidding rivals were the Mariners and the Royals. Times change, but I have a hard time picturing Sandy Alderson competing with any team for a free agent. Obviously, that has to change eventually.
Mike, you there?
Abreu at $11 million per is looking like a bargain. And if I’m Nelson Cruz, I’d rather hit in Philadelphia than in Flushing, though, I realize, money trumps all.
This sensational clip from “Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is for you, cool cats. Can you dig it?