A report from Yancen Pujols of El Caribe has indicated that the Mariners and free agent slugger Nelson Cruz are close to signing off on a 4-year deal (Spanish link) to bring the 34-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder/designated hitter to Seattle.
The Mariners have not yet confirmed the move, but ESPN's Jerry Crasnick Tweeted that he has confirmed the deal with a baseball source, since also confirmed by Bob Dutton of The News Tribune, pending Cruz passing a physical.
Cruz and the Mariners were reportedly close to an agreement on a one-year deal with an option prior to the 2014 season, but that deal was said to have been rejected by management, citing Cruz's PED-related suspension. A year later, the club seems to have put any concerns with Cruz's past errors in judgment behind them and will add the cleanup hitter that the franchise has sorely lacked for quite some time.
Once the Cruz deal becomes official, Seattle will surrender their 1st round pick -- currently slated at 21st overall -- as the Orioles did extend him a qualifying offer ($15.3m). But in doing so, the club will seemingly set themselves up for 2015 at a position that has been a problem for them. In his career as a DH, Cruz has been a very good hitter, tallying a career mark of .261/.319/.489 in 120 games as the designated hitter in a career that has been almost exclusively in the American League. 89 of those games came in 2014, when he hit .266/.325/.497 in 385 plate appearances as the Orioles' DH. The other "position" that Cruz is stepping into is that of the right-handed power bat.
Cruz owns a career line of .234/.309/.440 in 204 plate appearances as a visitor at Safeco Field, where his 4.4 HR% is the second best all time of visiting right-handed hitters with 200 or more plate appearances. Slating that right-handed bat in between the lefty swinging Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager should also do wonders for the M's in terms of negating some of the deficiencies they've exhibited against left-handed pitching of late. Cruz owns a career slash of .289/.364/.522 versus lefties whereas Seattle as a team has hit an AL-worst .240/.294/.342 against them in 2014 and just .238/.295/.363 over the last three seasons.
This likely doesn't end Seattle's moves this off-season, but the addition of Cruz is one that makes perhaps the most sense for Seattle for the 2015 season as he answers the question of "who will hit between Cano and Seager" with authority.
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