Prior to San Diego Padres' 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday at Petco Park, they announced that Nelson Cruz was designated for assignment (DFA) among multiple roster moves. It's not surprising that they decided to move on from Cruz as it was only a matter of time.
Signed by GM A.J. Preller over the offseason to handle the DH duties from the right side of the plate, it just never worked out. Preller was correct in targeting Cruz as a power-hitting bat as despite being 43 years old, he still had the power to be productive. Adding him to a Padres lineup that is already loaded with high-price players and more depth down the line was a no-brainer.
The numbers, however, just were not there. In 152 at-bats, he slashed .245/.283/.399 with just five home runs and 23 RBI. He struck out 46 times in 49 games. The struggles the Padres have had this season go far beyond Cruz, but this is a start in an effort to turn things around.
Options that were in front of San Diego in who they could have DFA were few and far between. Matt Carpenter has struggled like Cruz in his first season in Southern California, but the contract he signed for two years and $12 million is a hefty one to DFA. Cruz was on a one-year, $1 million deal. Carpenter has been losing left-handed DH at-bats to Rougned Odor recently, who was signed to a one-year, $800,000 contract.
Carpenter also brings versatility to manager Bob Melvin being able to slide into multiple positions defensively, while Cruz was strictly a DH. Another option to DFA was Austin Nola. However, one week before the All-Star Break, you're not going to DFA your backup catcher, considering the past injury history of Gary Sanchez. In the overall picture, Carpenter is a player that can get hot with the bat at any time as he did last season with the New York Yankees, and the Padres should show some patience with him. He still has two and a half months to turn it around.
San Diego Padres make other roster moves
Michael Wacha, signed over the winter to a four-year, $26 million free-agent contract from the Boston Red Sox, has been very good through the first three months for the Friars. In 15 starts, he is 8-2 with a 2.84 ERA, and in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds on July 1, he gave up five hits, one run over five innings on 87 pitches. Tuesday, he was placed on the 15-day IL with right shoulder inflammation. The move is retroactive to July 2.
Just how long Wacha will be sidelined remains to be seen, but if he's gone for longer than 15 days, that could change Preller's course of action at the trade deadline. Moving on from Cruz opens a roster spot that could be filled down the line by a trade, but if they need to add a starting pitcher if Wacha is down a significate amount of time, decisions become tougher. Wacha has been arguably their best pitcher and now is not a good time to lose him for an extended amount of time.
San Diego made a third roster move as they optioned pitcher Domingo Tapia to the El Paso Chihuahuas, their Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. To fill the three roster spots of Cruz, Wacha, and Tapia, they recalled pitchers Jose Castillo and Matt Waldron from El Paso, along with infielder Matthew Batten.
The writing has been on the wall for some time now with Cruz, but in the bigger picture, it was the right decision. He was struggling in a lineup that has been top-heavy and looking for depth from anyone and unfortunately, Cruz could not deliver. It should be a sign to some of the other players on the roster that the front office knows it's time to turn it around before it's too late.