Should Preller And The Padres Pursue Nelson Cruz In Free Agency?
By David Warren
Jul 9, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitterNelson Cruz
(23) bats in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Nationals defeated the Orioles 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Following the Padres’ hiring of A.J Preller this past Tuesday from the Texas Rangers, many in baseball view this hiring as a positive for San Diego and shift in the other direction away from previous GM Josh Byrnes.
Preller skills to evaluate players and scout international talent can only help improve the number six rated farm system in Major League Baseball. In a day of age where 28% of players come from Latin America, Preller’s ability to communicate and gain the trust of these players to sign with the Padres’ is essential when teams such as the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers can lure them in with money.
Preller has the skills necessary to improve an already strong farm system and sign players south of the border, but will the Padres ownership open their wallet and allow him to bring in free agent players?
Next year’s free agent pool is not as deep as in previous years, but Nelson Cruz has proven again this year that he is still one of the top power-hitters in the game and would be a perfect fit in San Diego.
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Since the opening of Petco Park 2004, the Padres have had one or two power-hitting lefties in the lineup, but they have never had that dominant right-handed stick to hit the Western Metal Supply building in left field.
Cruz would be the perfect fit in San Diego and a step in the right direction to show fans that the new ownership is committed to winning. The Padres’ pitching staff is one the elites in the game, but the offense is putrid lacking an RBI guy or power-hitter in the lineup. Someone who can make a player in front of them even better.
Coming into the 2014 season, there were definite question marks about Cruz because of his 2013 suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED), so it was not surprising only three teams had interest in signing the slugger.
When he signed a 1-year $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles this year, many thought he was half the player he was in Texas, but he has proved everyone wrong. Cruz has bounced back with a great season posting a .258 with 29 homers and 77 RBI making and the All-Star team for the third time in his career.
Although the Padres might be a little reluctant to have the new GM spend money after Byrnes’ disastrous signings of both Josh Johnson and Carlos Quentin, they did manage to clear $13 million in payroll with the trades of Chase Headley, Huston Street, and Chris Denorfia.
In addition, the Padres opened the payroll to $90 million this year showing some initiative by Chief Executive Ron Fowler and CEO Mike Dee to bring in a big name free agent. Should Cruz be the primary target this off-season?
Despite being 34-years old, the Dominican born Cruz continues to have one of the best swings in the game, and his arm is perfect for right-field.
Preller’s impact in creating an academy in the Dominican Republic helped bring players such as Elvis Andrus and Alexi Ogando to the Texas Rangers. It also reflects the commitment Preller and Cruz had in promoting the game in this country as both flew down together to speak at the academy.
However, Preller will have problems with the existing contracts of Quentin and outfielder Cameron Maybin who are combined to make $13 million next year, but it should not deter the Padres from making a run for Cruz.
Even though Baltimore, most likely, is the front-runner because of manager Buck Showalter and the DH, a four year deal worth about $15-$16 million a year with incentives is not an unreasonable offer and it shows Padres’ fans that the team is committed to winning.
Think for a second the starting outfield for the 2015 season: Seth Smith in left, Will Venable in centerfield, and Nelson Cruz in right. Combined with a playoff caliber pitching staff, the Padres’ would make a push in the NL West.