The Mariners have made no secret out of their desire to trade for a right-handed slugger, so perhaps this report from the Dominican newspaper El Caribe should not surprise us too much:
— El Caribe (@ElCaribeRD) December 1, 2014
You don’t have to be a Spanish expert to deduce that the report suggests that the Mariners are close to signing Nelson Cruz to a four year, $57 million contract. Ken Rosenthal has confirmed that the team is in “serious talks”, so it seems like a deal is probably going to get done.
The crowd and I both projected Cruz to sign for $45 million over three years, so it appears the Mariners won the bidding by adding a fourth year at an additional $12 million to the pile. Realistically, though, Cruz shouldn’t be expected to produce any value in his age-37 season, so while the team is spreading the $57 million out over four years, he’s going to have to justify the entirety of that figure over the next 2-3 seasons before he declines into nothing more than a bench player.
The forecasts are not optimistic. Steamer has Nelson Cruz projected for +1.5 WAR in 637 plate appearances in 2015, based on a 119 wRC+ and minimal defensive value. ZIPS sees the same level of offensive output, but because Dan gives a bigger boost to designated hitters to account for the DH penalty, he has the same production worth +2 WAR. The forecasts both think Cruz will return to something very close to his career performance, though, and that his career year at 2014 was an outlier and not a sustainable improvement.
If Cruz follows a traditional aging curve, he’d be expected to produce something like +3 to +5 WAR, depending on how you heavily you penalize a player for spending time at DH. At $57 million, even the high side of this looks like $11 million per win, while the low side of the projection would have him pushing $20 million per win. Oh, and the Mariners gave up the 21st pick in the draft to sign Cruz as well.
We’ll do a full write-up on Cruz to the Mariners in a bit, but this is an early contender for the worst signing of the off-season.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.