With Cruz off the board, do Mariners make a move?
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Mariners fans had a huge sigh of relief or a moment of frustration to go with their coffee this morning, depending on how they viewed Nelson Cruz. The former Rangers outfielder is no longer on the market after agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles, ensuring that he will not be a Mariner.
I don’t think he was a good fit and I don’t think there was a huge amount of interest in him – and it sounds like that was a two-way street – so all in all I do not view this as a loss. The offense he may have brought would most likely barely make up for his lack of skills in other areas, particularly defense, which could have significantly hurt the team. For those who have been vehemently against this signing from the beginning, I don’t think the Mariners have dodged a bullet because while there may have been interest, I don’t think they were seriously pursuing him, particularly of late.
So will we see any more signings? Kendrys Morales is still out there, and if he is willing to sign a similar deal I could see the Mariners trying to pick him up. The Mariners know and like Morales, and despite the outfield, first base/designated hitter situation no doubt could use him, especially if Corey Hart can play a good amount of games in the outfield.
So who goes if they sign Morales? Possibly nobody. Before I wrote the disappearance of the outfield competition post yesterday I put together my projected 25-man roster and came up with an empty spot on the bench. You cannot play Morales in the field more than two-three days a week and expect to keep him healthy. It would take some juggling but you could keep both Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison and let the best bat play. If you end up with excess, so be it. Now, if you can make a trade for something useful, by all means do it, but if not, there’s nothing wrong with having a good bat or defensive replacement on the bench.
What about starting pitcher Ervin Santana? I just can’t see this. Assuming his price tag is in the Matt Garza/Ubaldo Jimenez range of four years, $50 million, it just doesn’t make sense for the long term. Yes, you can never have enough good pitching, but the verdict is out on exactly what Santana is, and you have pitching coming. You may have a need for Santana now as a three, but that three could drop to a five as soon as next year if Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are what you think they are. Should the Mariners be paying $12 million a year for their No. 5 starter? If you could sign him for two years it would be a different matter, but if that money is there to be spent in the next few years, is that how you want to spend it?
There is always the possibility of a trade and I still think this is the most likely move we will see if we are to see any moves at all this spring. Morales is certainly a possibility, but it will be on the Mariners’ terms, and there is no telling how his agent, Scott Boras, is going to play this. Morales signing a Nelson Cruz-like deal would be a loss for Boras, but Morales might get anxious and wave his agent off. Interesting situation to say the least.