We are roughly two months removed from Major League Baseball Opening Day 2014. All 30 teams are starting to take form as they get prepared for another 162-game season.
But as is the case in many late-offseason periods, there remains a number of quality free agents waiting for the right contract to land their way. However, this year's "leftovers" are perhaps of a higher standard than of recent years. Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew and Bronson Arroyo are all without contracts for the 2014 season.
Also included in that mix is outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cruz, who is entering is age-34 season, owns a lifetime slash mark of .266/.327/.506 and is a two-time All-Star, including just last season—all with the Texas Rangers. In 2013, Cruz launched 27 home runs, his fifth consecutive season with at least 20 round-trippers.
Clearly, Cruz is an established slugger with tremendous power. But his age, defensive lacking and link to last year's Biogenesis scandal (he was suspended for 50 games in 2013 and missed the Rangers' playoff appearance) may be deterring teams from offering him a significant contract.
Should the New York Mets take a chance on Nelson Cruz?
There are some teams, however, that could be interested in taking on Cruz as he looks to re-establish himself as a legitimate big leaguer. One such team could be the New York Mets.
The Mets have been searching for a middle-of-the-order thumper to give David Wright some protection, and though they signed Curtis Granderson earlier this winter, Cruz would provide the team with some much-needed thunder.
If the season started today, the Mets starting outfield would likely consist of Granderson in left and some combination of Eric Young Jr., Chris Young and Juan Lagares in center and right field. And while each of them possess their own skill set, none would supply the power that Cruz could.
The question is: What would a Cruz contract be worth? Personally speaking, I would not go beyond two guaranteed years at no more than $10 million per year. At age 34, Cruz's durability will be in question, as will his overall productivity. But if he shows that this Biogenesis scandal is far behind him and can still put up 25-30 home runs, he would be a much-needed asset for a Mets club that finished the fourth fewest amount of home runs in 2013.
So, should the New York Mets take a chance on Nelson Cruz? I say yes, but only on their terms.