Lazy Comps: Nelson Cruz

Cruz
Disclaimer and Explanation:
Lazy Comps are comparisons, and they are lazy because its not really in-depth scouting.


SUBJECT: Nelson Cruz

Usually when we compare players it’s because we want to know how that player may turn out. So typically comparisons are useful for younger players.

Nelson Cruz is no spring chicken- he’s 32, but he got a late start in his career, and now enters his walk-year with a possible 50 game suspension clouding up his future.

When news broke that Cruz was in connection with Biogensis in Miami, I wondered what the future would hold for him and the Rangers. Then, I realized this doesn’t really even matter. Cruz usually misses 50 games due to injury anyways. Except last year, the only year he didn’t miss significant time… possibly because of the PEDs. All that playing time he built up last year only equated to a replacement level player.

I actually think that the Rangers should take advantage of Cruz’s situation and give him a multi-year deal. They could get him on a steep discount, given the possible suspension. They could always load a deal with incentives to make it worth his while too. I propose 3 years $18 million guaranteed, with incentives pushing it to around 30 million and maybe a fourth year.

If he falls to the floor (below) the Rangers are only paying a few million per season, but if he returns to his slugging form (even further below) then the Rangers will have a significant bargain.

Melky Cabrera, also scarlet-lettered as a steroid used, had to settle for a 2 year $16 million deal with Toronto, after putting up exceptional numbers. Cruz is four years older and doesn’t have the other tools that Melky has, nor the numbers. I think 3/18 is an even risk for both sides.

FLOOR: Marlon Byrd, 4.8 bWAR after age 32. Career: .278/.336/.748

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We all remember Byrd, he had a three year renaissance in Arlington under Rudy Jaramillo. Byrd then left for the Cubs on a multi-year deal that he didn’t complete in Chicago. Byrd had a positive test last year, and now is featured in the worst outfield in all of baseball- the New York Metropolitans.

Before Byrd’s positive test he was already scuffling and showing signs of slowing down. Byrd’s downward spiral looked awfully similar to Cruz last year. Cruz has been crumbling away in the outfield, and still has the inability lay off anything on the outer half of the plate.

Byrd was a journeyman, when arrived on scene in Texas at age 29. Cruz also got took awhile to cement his place in the bigs, not getting above 500 plate appearances until he was 28. When you don’t make it until you’re 28-29, you won’t get to free agency until you’re 33-34.That’s a problem, because that’s when you start to show signs of age and decline. This could be a reason both guys sought PEDs.

If Cruz doesn’t find his groove from year’s past, he might not find many eager suitors, making for a harsh winter.

CEILING: Andres Galarraga, 21.1 bWAR after age 32. Career: .288/.347/.846

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I make this comparison because I feel that Cruz’s outfielding days should be limited. Therefore he should get familiar with DH-ing, or learn another trade, like 1B.

Obviously this is more dependent on the Rangers working him out there, but what’s to stop them- Mitch Moreland? The Rangers don’t have a 1B in the system, unless you count Mike Olt, which the Rangers don’t. They have him playing RF and 3B, there’s apparently no 1B for Olt.

A natural platoon of Cruz and Moreland at 1B should be something that the Rangers could ease into as the season progresses.

Cruz is at the crossroads, within a year he could be an outfielder still, or a first baseman, or a designated-hitter, a Pirate, a Met, an Orix Blue Wave, or maybe a Ranger still. To say he has a lot riding on this season would be an understatement.

Those dire situations are similar to what Galarraga faced in his career. In 1991, Galarraga was a 30 year-old first baseman, who was entering free agency with a meager .219 batting average. He hooked on with the Cardinals and didn’t fare any better, hitting .243 in 95 games.

With his career on life support, he found a spot on the expansion franchise- the Colorado Rockies. It was in Coors Field, where Galarraga resurrected his career. He came back from baseball death to lead the National League with a .370 batting average.

After making peanuts his first year in Colorado, the Rockies gave him a multi-year deal; and Galarraga did not disappoint. He played four more seasons in Denver, and averaged 38.5 home-runs per year, one of those years being the strike-shortened 1994 campaign.

Basically Galarraga put up some prodigious power numbers for a mid-thirties guy, who should be declining. There is some speculation that Galarraga was a tainted ball-player, much like his contemporaries.

Well, Cruz is now a part of that club. I don’t care, and I don’t blame him.

Cruz is now entering the phase of his career that Galarraga and Byrd have already went through. We will soon see which career plane Cruz catches.  


Dan Allsup is a staff writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach him on Twitter @DanAllsup, or email him at Dan.Allsup@shutdowninning.com
Dan Allsup

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