News that the M's are willing to surrender their entire pot for the 33-year-old comes just days after word surfaced that the club was willing to offer him multiple years. CBS' Jon Heyman wrote on Tuesday that Seattle is open a two-, maybe three-year contract for Cruz, and the club is prepping a formal offer for the two-time all-star.
Cruz's market started to heat back up last week, with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reporting that "up to four or five teams" could end up making a run at the former Ranger before all is said and done. In addition to the M's, the Orioles, Rangers, and Twins have also been linked to Cruz, though the latter two are only interested at an extreme discount -- which they might get if things stay stagnant much longer.
With pitchers and catchers already reporting for several teams, we've officially reached the point in the offseason where leverage in contract negotiations has swung all the way in favor of teams. Prices went through the roof in November and December as clubs wrestled with each other to lock down the services of certain free agents, but with fewer teams now in the market and spring training right around the corner, desperation is the name of the game for the remaining players.
The mostly silent rumor mill coupled with the proximity of Opening Day means that if Cruz, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, et al, want to sign new deals before the season begins, they're likely going to be forced to sign at well below market value -- or at least below their original demands.
Case in point: Cruz made it known after Jhonny Peralta signed with the Cardinals that he was seeking a deal in the four year, $75 million neighborhood, but the good folks at Lookout Landing believe that signing him at anything more than two years, $20 million now would be way too much...
I just cannot see Cruz getting anywhere close to $15/per at this late in the game. I see 2/20, MAYBE. If it's more, run. RUUUNNNNNN— Scott Weber (@LookoutLanding) February 6, 2014
Now, much of Scott's trepidation obviously comes from the idea that the M's will overvalue Cruz and his Arlington-inflated power numbers -- see: this post -- but the bargain-bin low pricing (i.e. a $55 million discount) is also somewhat the result of it being such a late stage in the game. Whether Jack Z and company value Cruz the same way is anyone's guess at this point.
As it stands now, the Mariners' outfield looks to be some combination of Michael Saunders, Logan Morrison, Corey Hart, Dustin Ackley, and (injury gods be kind) Franklin Gutierrez. All the uncertainty in that group certainly leaves an opening for adding someone else to patrol Safeco's spacious outfield grass, but whether the iron-gloved, lead-footed Cruz is the best answer is up for debate.
Cruz hit a solid .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs in a PED-limited 109 games last season, but did so playing half his contests in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. For his career, Cruz owns an impressive 912 OPS at the newly christened Globe Life Park, but a much more pedestrian 734 OPS everywhere else.