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All signs point to Nelson Cruz landing with the Mariners

Feb 8, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Thursday that the Mariners are “cautiously optimistic” about signing free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. Two days later, all signs point to the scenario becoming a reality:

Cruz was reportedly seeking $75 million earlier this winter, but he’ll likely have to lower his expectations with spring training right around the corner. The Mariners would have to give up a draft pick (a third-rounder) and the corresponding draft pool money in order to sign him, so it isn’t just about the contract.

Assuming the two sides are able to wrap up a deal, the Mariners might not be done making moves. With Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in the fold, Justin Smoak could soon become a trade target.

  1. thomas844 - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Having Cano, Cruz, and Hart as 3-4-5 hitters would be a heck of an improvement over having Seager, Morales, and Ibanez as the meat of the order.

    • ewampus - Feb 8, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      When its put that way the M’s signing Cruz isn’t that bad for them.

    • shawnuel - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:26 PM

      Not sure I agree. I LOVE the Hart signing but his ability to hit like he has in the past is in question due to injuries to both knees. We will see. I’d rather have Morales and Seager than Cruz. His lifetime average (albeit a small sample size) in Safeco is below .200, he is a right handed hitter in a park that is still death to right handed hitters. He previously played in, perhaps, the BEST park for RGH hitters in Arlington. He is coming off who knows how many seasons of steroid usage. He is an albatross in RF. I’d rather have Hart and Morrison share right and sign Morales as DH/1B than give any money to Cruz.

  2. sportsnut101 - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    only team interested in him he should get on knees and be thankful

    im hearing max 35 mil deal just short of the 75 mill some agent thought he would get

  3. spudchukar - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    If the Mariners do indeed sign Cruz, it sets up a glut in the 1B, RF, and DH spots. Most probably this eliminates Morales, but as mentioned in the post, Smoak, Morrison, and Hart all need positions, and it doesn’t even include Montero, who while not a viable catcher, still brings some talent to the plate.

    Even more puzzling is what to do with the talented, and very young Franklin? It is hard to see how there isn’t a deal in the works, which might even include Zunino, since Seattle has signed 2 other catchers in the off-season Quintero and Buck, and have Montero in an emergence. Could a Zunino, Franklin, Smoak, and Ackley deal for Price still breathing?

    • shawnuel - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      That deal would absolutely suck balls for the Mariners. No way Buck and Quintero form a core of a major league catching tandem. Zunino is in Seattle for at least 6 years, in my estimation. Plus, All that for two years of Price at about $15 mil per? No thanks!

      • spudchukar - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        I imagine Lobaton would be in the deal too, the Rays are ready to move him. It depends on how much the Mariners think of Zunino. Many experts aren’t very high on him, but since he has spent so little time in professional ball it is hard to know.

        The $15 mil for Price isn’t the barrier you seem to imply. Returning the Mariners to the 4 million in attendance, along with their new TV contract gives them plenty of cash going forward.

        It just depends upon how high Seattle is on Zunino, Ackley, Smoak and Franklin. But with Smoak and Franklin both blocked, Ackley learning a new position, and disappointing in production and the jury still out on the young catcher, a Price deal would make the Mariners immediately competitive.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:18 PM

        @ spudchukar, I’m curious when did the Mariners hit 4 million in attendance in the past? The highest total I can see this millennium was in 2001 when they hit 3.5MM that was the year they won 116 games. Their total in 2013 was 1.76MM. Obviously they will have an increase in attendance in 2014 and in all likelihood 2015 but do you really foresee an increase of about 125% over their 2013 attendance in the next few years considering they have never reached 4MM in attendance. At least not where I can find that they did.

    • mustang6984 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      Zunino is the catcher of the future for the M’s. The other two were signed as back-ups, with the idea of helping to bring him along. He is not a negotiable item.
      Smoak, is tough. if he or Ackley even remotely fail to produce, they’ll probably be down the road.
      Franklin I doubt will be an option for trade either. They should bundle Gutierrez in to a trade, since he has never really been a long term asset, has never played a full year, and since they were stupid enough to re-sign him again. Nice guy, but they have paid him for being injured more than they have paid him for playing. Tome to move on from that world.

  4. mweekes22 - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    I’ve never been a nelson cruz fan nor do I condone steroid use. If this guy is done being an idiot and he’s clean and he can resemble the power hitter he was pre suspension then I say go for it. This whole offseason I’ve found it weird that the Mariners only think of nick franklin as a platoon guy. The Mariners signed willie bloomquist for that very role and nick franklin is too young and too talented to sit on the bench the majority of the time. I think LoMo is basically Smoak’s replacement and once the Mariners do sign Cruz they can turn around and offer a package that includes franklin and smoak. I’ve heard recently that the phillies would consider trading hammels and clif lee…the Mariners have been trade partners with the phillies in recent years with the lee deal they made, maybe its hammels turn this time…wouldn’t mind seeing 1. felix 2. iwakuma 3. hammels in a rotation that would also include taijuan walker as the 4 or 5 starter. A deep starting rotation can do wonders for a team, especially one that plays in a pitchers ballpark half the season.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 8, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Can I assume from your post that you think a package that includes Franklin and Smoke among others might be enticing to the Phillies for Hamels? I’m not exactly sure what the Phillies would do with Smoke included in a package. Defensively he’s a rather poor 1st baseman and besides the Phillies already have Howard there.and since the NL doesn’t have a DH he’s useless there. Just a guess but I think it would take a pretty substantial package to pry Hamels away from the Phillies.

    • monupai - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Mariners never traded Lee to the phillies. It was the rangers. And even if the Mariners had ties with phillies it wouldn’t gone the an advantage over anyone else.

      • thisdamnbox - Feb 8, 2014 at 4:39 PM

        No, the Mariners traded FOR Lee, only to trade him later that season with Mark Lowe to the Rangers for Smoak and a bucket of balls.

  5. uyf1950 - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    “All signs point to Nelson Cruz signing with the Mariners”. It would appear that the Mariners are the only and last remaining option for Cruz. Based on the obvious lack of demand for Cruz anything more then 2 years guaranteed is probably an overpay.

  6. cohnjusack - Feb 8, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    IF they pay him like a 33-year-old who ranked 16th in wOBA among right fielders over the past 3 seasons with no defensive skills and a massive home/road split for his career, it will be a fine enough deal.

    If they pay him like he’s some elite slugger….well, the Mariners should be used to the feeling of awful free agent signings by now.

    • Kevin S. - Feb 8, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Any time you can overpay for a guy whose one appreciably major-league skill is heavily suppressed by your home ball park you have to do it.

      • shawnuel - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        Terrific post, Kevin.

  7. dnn92202 - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Can they just quit playing house and sign him already. Everyone knows it is going to happen, so pull the friggen trigger.

    M’s would be stupid to deal zunino. But Franklin and Smoak are not needed. Smoak is the new Ritchie Sexton. He has never lived up to the hype. Trade them for an outfielder with a stick and defense. Plenty of pitching in the minors.

    • shawnuel - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      Well…Sexson (no T) actually had a few good years before going off the cliff, so I am not sure that comparison holds.

  8. swungonandbelted14 - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    With regard to trading Franklin I think it is a sell high situation for Seattle. Last year he tore the cover off the ball when he first came up. About a month in the wheels came off and he did not deal with it well. The slump was hard to watch after such a hot start for this kid. Some of that could be connected with the poor coaching and the Wedge effect but Ryan has been in the minors a while and the mental part of this game is as big if not bigger than the physical part. There is so much to like about this guy. Hes got a little swag about him and a gun for an arm. Just dont like the mental approach at the plate.

    • spudchukar - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      The wheels came off after he got hurt.

    • mustang6984 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:46 AM

      I don’t see them trading him. Smoak, yes, Gutierrez PLEASE…(that has long been a waste of money, he spends more time on the dl than on the field!), Ackley…I’d be fine with that trade as well.

  9. jkaflagg - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    It’s interesting that once you sign a FA with compensation and give up your 1st round pick, you might as well sign a few other guys – losing a 2nd or 3rd is nothing, especially if there are a lot of sandwich or competitive balance picks in there. In the old days, teams wouldn’t worry about this, as they would simply draft a ‘tough sign’ guy in the 3rd or 4th round and give them 1st round money; but with the new signing money allocations, they can’t do this anymore. Still seems like it’s unfair to the team losing a FA to get a 2nd or 3rd rounder just because the signing team signed somebody else first…..

    • Kevin S. - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:39 PM

      It used to be that’s what happened, most famously Toronto getting a late 3rd as compensation for losing AJ Burnett, but now you only get the sandwich pick, so the team that signs your player is mostly irrelevant. The pick the signing team loses just disappears, so there is a marginal benefit to your guy being signed by a team that would lose a pick ahead of the sandwich round, but it otherwise doesn’t matter like it used to.

  10. bigguy54 - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:37 AM

    Smoak is a pretty good D 1st nm, he hits Ok LH but sucks RH.

    The M’s 1st rnd pick is protected, they lost their 2nd ot if Morales signs that pick. The big loss is the money they lose if they lose another pick.

    I would rather they trade for an OF’er than sign a guy whose power is lost at Safeco.

    If the M’s trade Zunino it will be close to as bad as the Jones trade. He was good behind the plate, still had some learning to do. He started hitting before the injury to his hand. He did the same in AAA hit Ok, got cold, then started hitting better. He will be long term with Seattle hopefully. Bavasi got rid of Jones to try and save his kob, I hope Z does not, or is not allowed to do the same.

    • mustang6984 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:52 AM

      don’t have to worry about Zunino going anywhere. He is untouchable. The guy is the future for the franchise behind the plate. That is the reason they abandoned working with Montero to develop him better as a catcher and turned him into an outfielder.

      The guys who need to be waiting for that call to the managers office are Smoak, Ackley, & Gutierrez. Any one of them or all three of them leaving would not be a huge loss. Guti is great when he is healthy, problem is, he is NEVER healthy long enough to be a long term impact player.

  11. mustang6984 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:54 AM

    Sign him…give him what ever he wants…BUT…MAKE IT all over what you offer him, tied to incentive packages. That way, if he gets ALL that he wants in payment, it means he has produced ALL that the M’s wanted from him!

    SIMPLE, NO MUSS, NO FUSS!

    • uyf1950 - Feb 10, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      Basically the only incentives a team can make a players payroll conditional on is: PA’s and or games played. Other then those 2 things the CBA does NOT allow teams to tie incentives to performance by a player.

  12. mrbednarz - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    Smoak is expendable by us and still marketable due to his age and avg to above avg defensive skills and supposed switch hitting versatility. Morales is already dealt though I think. Cruz would be a good addition and I think he could regain his pop if he stays clean and puts that mental baggage behind him for good. Cliff Lee would be a welcome return for us. He has never pitched better than he did for us since he left midway in 2010 with 8-3 record, 2.34 ERA and nearly 15/1 Strike-out to walk ratio. Sure would be nice if there was some scenario that returned Lee to the friendly and welcome confines of Safeco Field.

  13. bricsa - Feb 11, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    I’ve lost track as to how long the Ms have been on the verge of signing Cruz, but it seems like weeks, and neither the Ms nor Mr. Cruz/his agent appear to be reading the “signs.”

    If the signing of Cruz clears up the logjam of 1B/DH/OF types with a trade that jettisons Smoak (he’s had 4 years to prove his worth), then that could be a good thing. Awhile back, the Pirates reportedly were interested. And, it so happens they have RH 25 y/oStarling Marte, $500,000 salary, in their outfield…last year’s line was .280, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 26 doubles, 10 triples, and 41 SB. But, 27 y/o Smoak, with his $514,000 salary, only had these numbers: .238, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 19 doubles, 0 triples, and 0 SB, thus the Ms would need to sweeten the pot or the Pirates would want him awful bad. A trade of this type would gain the Ms a leadoff batter, a second player who batted over .270, and a legitimate new offensive weapon who’s played LF and CF.

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