Had Nelson Cruz not been busted in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013 he likely would have landed a five year deal last year with at least a value of $90MM – $100MM. Instead he signed with the Baltimore Orioles for one year and bashed an AL leading 40 home runs and drove in 108 runs.
It was those numbers that landed Cruz a four-year, $57MM deal with the Seattle Mariners Monday morning. It’s still shy a year and some millions of what he could have made, but after last season’s compromise (Cruz earned $8MM), the new deal looks pretty golden.
The Mariners made a committment last season towards a brighter tomorrow when they held firm to their policy of holding on to ace Felix Hernandez and then signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM deal. The team also inked closer Fernando Rodney last offseason and recently signed slugging third baseman Kyle Seager to a seven year extension. They also dealt for centerfielder Austin Jackson at the 2014 trade deadline.
Cruz is likely to spend most of his time at DH, though he should see upwards of 50 games in left and/or right field spelling Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. The 34-year old, who has been subject to hamstring injuries throughout his career, matched his career high for games played last season with 159. His home run and RBI totals were both career highs (it was the first time he knocked in 100 runs) and helped earn Cruz his third All-Star appearance and a 7th place finish in the AL MVP voting.
His season was made more interesting by the fact that Cruz only put up .783 OPS at his home ball park, the hitter friendly Camden Yards. His bat also went to sleep from June through part of August.
The New York Mets originally signed the Dominican native to a contract in 1998. He was dealt to the Oakland A’s in 2000 and then moved on to Milwaukee in 2004. The deal that kickstarted his career though came in 2006 when he and Carlos Lee were sent to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.
Cruz had his break out season in 2009 when he slugged 33 home runs. He’s averaged 29 home runs in his last six seasons. He had 27 HR and 76 RBI when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, the performance enhancing drug (PED) “store” that mascaraded as a health clinic.
With Cruz’s departure, the Orioles may ramp up their talks with the LA Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp.