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GM says Mariners “would love to have Nelson Cruz, but …”

Jan 28, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

Nelson Cruz Getty Images

As expected the draft pick compensation attached to signing Nelson Cruz has significantly hurt the free agent outfielder’s market, leaving him unsigned with weeks before spring training begins.

In speaking at the Mariners’ fan fest event general manager Jack Zduriencik was very open about the team’s interest in Cruz, but also laid out exactly why his price tag is effected by the draft pick:

I’ve had a lot of discussions with Adam Katz, his agent. There’s an economic factor tied to that, as well as losing your draft pick. Would I like to have him here? Absolutely. I’d love to have Nelson Cruz in this lineup. But how much do you have to pay him, how many years is it going to be and are you willing to lose another draft pick? Those are the things you have to factor.

Seattle has already lost its second-round pick for signing Robinson Cano, so in theory the Mariners would be giving up less–a third-round pick–to sign Cruz than most teams. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that the Orioles are also interested in Cruz, but adds that he may end up trying to re-sign with the Rangers on a one-year deal.

  1. leylandshospicenurse - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    1. Choo 2. Andrus 3. Fielder 4. Beltre 5. Cruz 6. Rios 7. Profar 8. Soto 9. Martin that’s a pretty potent lineup and it would allow them to trade Moreland for a prospect or two

    • uyf1950 - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      The trouble is both Choo and Cruz are serious defensive liabilities in the outfield.

      • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Gezundtheit!

      • spudchukar - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        UYF, my friend, Choo isn’t a defensive liability in either corner spot, only as a centerfielder, and Rios would hold down the other corner position, not Cruz.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        And where would you put Cruz since he has played right field 95% of the time during his 9 year career? Since V-Mart gets most of the DH at bats. Just curious.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        @ spudchukar, my apologies. I’m apparently all screwed up this morning with my names and teams. Again apologies.

      • thomas844 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:22 PM

        You must have never seen Choo play right field in Cleveland. His range isn’t the best but it isn’t bad, either. Plus, the dude has a cannon.

      • spudchukar - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Just I “senior moment” my friend, happens to me often.

  2. tysonpunchinguterus - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    I really thought players in his situation would have learned after last off-season that they should take the qualifying offer. Cruz and Drew could both wind up signing 1-year deals for less than the qualifying offers and wind up in the same situation next year. If players start accepting those offers, teams will think twice before making them to players they might not want to keep.

    • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      That is a good point, and it might work for now. However the next time the CBA needs to be negotiated look for this whole “Qualifying offer” thing to be a sticking point.

      • byjiminy - Jan 29, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        Can’t they sign a one-year deal, with a built-in agreement that the signing team will not make a qualifying offer the next year, thus allowing them to become a true free agent?

        I know this sounds like it would subvert the collective bargaining agreement, but I feel like this happened once already, and allowed a player to become a free agent the following year without costing a draft pick.

        I’m not positive though, and unfortunately it’s kind of a tricky thing to google; I’m at work, so I’ll have to leave this unverified….

  3. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    I expect the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation to be a hotly debated topic come next labor negotiations. The current system just isn’t working. I get it’s purpose, but it’s giving too much power to teams in forcing their players to stay for another year. The big guys and the little guys aren’t as affected, it’s the middle of the pack player that’s getting the beating here.

    • jeffbbf - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      I don’t think middle-of-the–pack players are being offered $14 million dollar contracts. It’s a simple decision…take the $14 million 1 year contract, or try to get a better deal on the market, knowing that a draft pick is your anchor. BTW – the $14 million dollar figure, I believe, is derived by averaging the top 125 salaries.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        That’s correct about it being the average of the top 125 players. Maybe they should make it the average of the top 50 players instead. It might make the teams more hesitant to make a QO to some like Drew and it also might make the qualifying offer more attractive even for just one year to a player like Drew if he was made a QO.

        Another possible option is MLB and the MLBPA could agree that the QO was a 2 year guaranteed offer. For example if that was the case this year the Red Sox would have committed $14.1MM per year for 2 years to Drew when they made him the QO not just 1 year. That certainly would make the Red Sox think twice about make the QO and it certainly would have made Drew think at least twice before rejecting it if the Sox did make the offer.

        Just some thoughts on how to tweak the QO.

      • jeffbbf - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        Maybe the question is: Why is the attached draft pick such a big issue *now*? Almost every free agent used to have a draft pick attached to him – and there was never this much consternation. I don’t remember hearing about any free agent that sat in free-agent limbo solely because the signing team would have to give up a draft pick.

        Seems like teams are using this as an excuse to drive the prices down, or maybe to try to explain to their fan base why they aren’t signing free agents. It actually sounds like there is some strategy there other than “we don’t want to spend the money”

      • spudchukar - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        Actually the driving force is that teams are realizing that high draft picks are more valuable than most FAs.

      • tysonpunchinguterus - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        I think the draft pick has become an issue now because the old system noted the difference between the top free agents and the 2nd-tier guys. This system puts the compensation for Cruz and Drew on the same level as it is for someone like Cano.

        Teams also seem to be more aware of the value of a top draft pick now. Maybe it’s due to better scouting/analysis or the realization that it is often better to develop good young players rather than giving up that draft pick for an expensive veteran who might be past his prime sooner than later.

        There’s also an element of delusion on the players’ and agents’ part. Cruz is coming of his Biogenesis suspension. He and his agent had to realize that his perceived value is now much less than it was a year ago. He’s got the PED stank on him and is likely going to end up somewhere that is not as hitter-friendly as Arlington. Yet he was looking for a multi-year deal for about $15 million per year. Any GM offering up that contract is begging to be fired.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 28, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        Why is the attached draft pick such a big issue *now*? Almost every free agent used to have a draft pick attached to him – and there was never this much consternation.

        The big issue now is the combination of the loss of the draft pick money + the fixed draft allocation + the escalating cost of draftees in the first in second round.

        For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Houston didn’t sign their first round pick last year. This is the same as losing the pick as far as draft pool money goes.

        Total Pool – $11,698,000 (1)
        First Pick Slot – $7,790,400 (2)

        If Houston didn’t sign their pick, they just lost almost 67% of their pool to sign players. that’s what’s making teams hesitant to sign these guys. And then bring up what spud mentioned, people are starting to [over]value their draft picks.

        Also, teams are offering the QO to players they know won’t accept. Once these guys start taking the $14 or $15M deals instead of declining them, teams might become even more hesitant to offer them (no one has accepted iirc).

        1 – http://www.minorleagueball.com/2013/4/3/4179288/2013-mlb-draft-bonus-pool
        2 – http://www.mymlbdraft.com/2013-mlb-assigned-draft-pick-values

      • jwbiii - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        Exactly, tyson. Last offseason, Melky Cabrera got 2/$16m coming off a PED suspension without draft pick compensation attached. I don’t know why Nelson Cruz and Adam Katz thought that they would do any better than that, or even that well.

      • byjiminy - Jan 29, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        About the question of why draft picks matter more now —

        The cost of veteran free agents has risen dramatically.

        Meanwhile the cost of draft picks and young players has been contained.

        With a draft pick, you have a strict slot system for signing, and then several years of cost control when they reach the majors — three years of minimum, three years of arbitration.

        For six years of labor from a free agent, you pay tens of millions of dollars for an aging player, who may be on the downside of his career.

        What would six years of Nelson Cruz cost now, what would you get from him, and at what cost?

        Now compare that to a first round draft pick–how much production over his first six years of MLB, and at what cost.

        True, the production might be zero–but so would the cost. And Cruz’s production could be zero too, if he gets hurt–at a mammoth cost.

        And while obviously most draft picks don’t work out, most FIRST ROUND draft picks produce at least some value–and that production ALWAYS comes well below market value.

        So, if the cost of verteran players goes up, the value of a draft pick automatically goes up as well. As gap widens, and the cost of veterans continues to rise — which it will, as TV contracts continue to balloon — cost-contained young players become the most valuable commodity in baseball.

  4. billybawl - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Is it possible for a team like the Mariners to do a sign and trade? That is, they’d sign Cruz, forfeit their 3rd round pick, and then trade him to a team that would have had to forfeit a first or second round pick to sign Cruz directly. Even if possible, I’m not sure there’s a trade that would make this worthwhile for the M’s.

    If this rule doesn’t get overhauled or jettisoned, I also wonder if certain players coming up on free agency will push hard to be traded during the last year of their contract so there’s no draft pick compensation tied to them (Garza).

    • uyf1950 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      That’s not exactly accurate. MLB rues prohibit a team that signs a FA to a guaranteed contract from trading him for I believe the first 75 days of the regular season.

    • geoknows - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      The new CBA has specifically forbidden such shenanigans. If Big Bud’s office even gets the vaguest whiff that a sign-and-trade was behind a transaction, the trade would be promptly negated.

  5. cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    So another obstacle in that drive to build a team around Cano. /Sarcasm

  6. jkaflagg - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Has any FA signed this year that cost his signing team a first round pick (I know the M’s gave up their second pick because their first pick was top-10 protected) ?

    Sure is killing the market for potentially useful players like Cruz, Arroyo, Santana and Morales…..

    • jwbiii - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      Carlos Beltran NYM to StL (1 or 2)
      Robinson Cano Sea to NYY (2)
      Shin-Soo Choo Tex to Cin
      Jacoby Ellsbury NYY to Bos (1 or 2)
      Curtis Granderson NYM to NYY (1 or 2)
      Brian McCann NYY to Atl (1 or 2)

      Hiroki Kuroda NYY Resigned
      Mike Napoli Bos Resigned

      Nelson Cruz
      Stephen Drew
      Ubaldo Jimenez
      Kendrys Morales
      Ervin Santana

      Bronson Arroyo didn’t receive a QO, It puzzles me why he is still available. Maybe he and Gregg Clifton want too many years or $.

  7. benjaminmoney - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    1. Coco Crisp
    2. Jed Lowrie
    3. Josh Donaldson
    4. Yoenis Cespesdes
    5. Nelson Cruz
    6. Brandon Moss
    7. Josh Reddick
    8. John Jaso
    9. Nick Punto

  8. mustang6984 - Jan 30, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    I might be mistaken, but I believe Kendrys Morales is still unsigned. If he is, and Cruz’s agent doesn’t work something out soon, Morales might well head back to Seattle. His production last year was good there, and the fans loved him. He liked Seattle to boot.

    As of Jan 31, we have 16 days until pitchers and catchers report. The sand is running through the hour-glass…quickly!

  9. edavidberg - Feb 17, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    In hindsight Cruz should have taken that $14 million. He will be lucky to get a one year deal for half that at this point.

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