Logjam is finally over
For what seems like forever now, the MLB free agency extravaganza has been largely on hold thanks to Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Now that he’s finally been lured to the New York Yankees for an insane amount of cash (especially considering he’s never thrown a pitch in the majors) it frees up the logjam that was preventing other moves.
The Seattle Mariners I still believe will make one more major move. It’s going to be either for another hitter, most likely a right-handed hitter, or it’s going to be for a starting pitcher.
With Tanaka out, the biggest names on the free-agent list are Matt Garza and Ervin Santana. I think you could make an argument for either of these guys to have been the best free-agent start available in this entire offseason, and yet here they both remain available in the third week of January.
Stuff-wise, I think Garza is a better pitcher. Fit wise, the M’s might be better off with Santana if they have the option of choosing.
Santana is a fly-ball pitcher, a lot like former Mariner Jason Vargas.
Despite the fences being moved in last year at Safeco, the M’s home field is still pretty darn pitcher friendly. A guy like Santana could easily find success, as Vargas did, and do so while not totally breaking the bank.
Now, having said that, I know that Santana has reportedly been asking for five years and in the neighborhood of $100 million, which is clearly not cheap. He’s 30 years old and he’s got a career ERA of 4.19. Just a year ago he had a season where is ERA was over five.
I don’t think anyone is going to give him quite that much cash given his stats and age. Perhaps the idea of a friendlier ball park would be appealing enough for the price to come down?
If the M’s would rather sign a re-tread starter and get another big bat with that last bit of cash, the name that won’t seem to go away is Nelson Cruz.
Cruz missed significant time last year, but was still an effective hitter, hitting 27 home runs while batting .266 and driving in 76. In fact, his numbers have been in that range for the last five years.
The problem is WHY Cruz missed time last year. Let’s not forget that he missed 50 games because of a PED suspension. Despite the suspension, he’s been asking every team that talks to him for big cash.
I just don’t think big cash is going to happen for Cruz this year.
Cruz , if he really wants to get a big, long-term deal, must take an incentive-laden, one-year deal someplace to re-establish himself as a genuine power hitter. Why couldn’t that team be the Mariners? We sure as heck know that the M’s desperately need a solid right-handed hitter who can hit for power to help compliment Robinson Cano.
Cruz seems like an ideal bat, but where do you play him?
Given his arm strength, his natural position in the outfield should be right field and there’s a plethora of outfielders on this team already with Abraham Almonte, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders.
Maybe Almonte stays in AAA, Saunders goes away, Ackley plays center and Hart, Morrison and Cruz all rotate through the DH slot. It’s a tough fit to get this guy a place to play right now on this roster, but you have to love his bat assuming it’s not tainted with something.
A final thought on Cruz and PEDs: The Mariners have long been a G-rated organization. They have always stayed clear of guys like Cruz or other players who have other negative reputations associated with their name.
I honestly don’t think the M’s will go with Cruz just for that reason. Keep your eyes on the pitchers in free agency. It’s going to be an exciting and fast couple of weeks until pitchers and catchers have to report to Spring Training.