Free Agent Pass or Play: Nelson Cruz

Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed outfielder Nelson Cruz. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink above.


In 2013, Cruz was in the middle of a year that seemed on pace to match his career years of 2009 and 2010, hitting .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers before being suspended as part of the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz had made the All-Star time for the second time in 2013. Even with the suspension, Cruz has averaged 27 homers and just under 12 steals in each of the last five seasons and has stable platoon splits over his career, .285/.356/.513 versus lefties and .262/.317/.489 against righties. Not too much variance, which is good: Cruz is a player you wouldn’t have to platoon. The downside here is that his career marks against lefties are, in some ways, not a whole lot better than John Mayberry Jr.’s (.274/.321/.526).

On defense, Cruz is primarily a right fielder and is remembered as the player that could have wrapped up the 2011 World Series for the Rangers but misplayed a relatively routine David Freese fly ball to right field with the Rangers leading the game and up 3-2 in the series with two outs in the ninth. For his career, Cruz may not be much better. FanGraphs, in each of the last three seasons, has him costing the Texas Rangers somewhere between one-half and three-quarters of a win per year due to his defense. Out of 89 outfielders who played 600 innings or more, Cruz ranked 68th defensively, but it should be noted that he finished higher than both Mayberry and Domonic Brown, although, not by much.


The Phillies played in the sixth easiest park to score runs in and the easiest to hit a home run in in 2013 yet they ranked 11th out of 15 in the National League in slugging percentage and ninth in home runs. The Phillies were tied for 12th with the Mets in on-base percentage in 2013. Cruz would be a good fit in terms of improving the team’s slugging percentage but, for comparison’s sake, his on-base percentage was only three points higher than Brown’s 2013 mark and only 23 points higher than Mayberry’s career mark. The line-up may need some balance by adding a righty, but that may be the only improvement Cruz would bring.


According to the awesome FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project, Cruz is likely in line for somewhere between $9-11 million per year for two to three years.


Ruben Amaro that he is not comfortable with his outfield situation on more than one occasion. If Amaro doesn’t play on Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, or Curtis Granderson, which he may not be able to due to cost or their current teams making strong plays to re-sign them, Cruz is the next best outfielder in a pretty shallow crop of free agent outfielders. Cruz is definitely a possibility in this scenario and at the anticipated contract of somewhere in the neighborhood of three years, $30 million.

Verdict: Pass, But…

I think Amaro will try to sign him if he doesn’t accept the Texas Rangers $14 million qualifying offer for 2014. Cruz is one of the names that jumps out at me that screams Amaro’s name, particularly in Amaro’s quest for a “right-handed power bat”. At $10 million, Amaro will parade the signing as a more reserved approach to free agency when in reality, Cruz is no more of an upgrade against lefties than Mayberry, is on a career trajectory to be the right-handed Raul Ibanez, and hasn’t been worth $10 million a season since 2010. Easy pass for me, but Cruz in Phillies pinstripes would not in the least surprise me and I think it may happen.



  1. Ryne Duren

    October 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I don’t know Ian. This is a tough one. I think I’d pass on him due to the fact that Ruf should be given a complete season in LEFT. I think he’s actually surpass Cruz’s numbers offensively. As far as his defense? I think Ruf will get better in the outfield. Not that he was bad to begin with but we’re not winning any division next year so stay the course.
    If for some reason the Phillies could somehow make a deal for Stanton that included Ruf I’d do it in a heartbeat! (not likely though) I’d spend my FA money on Garza. I’d tender a low ball price to KK and if he doesn’t accept then we get another draft pick. I’d also try somehow to move Papelbon. I’d give Cruz a PASS.

  2. z

    October 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Rube is incompetent.

  3. Al

    October 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I like the Cruz option I say play. Realistically everyone would love Stanton. But everyone in MLB has better prospects to offer Miami than philly does. I for one would not like to see Franco and Biddle traded and thats what it will take to land Stanton. On the other hand, phils will surely make some offers for David Price. Again, if they want both Biddle and Franco I would stay clear. Likely Price would cost us Biddle/Ruf/Hernandez or some form. Again, Texas would have to be front runners for either Stanton or Price as they have the players teams want.

    Cruz and Beltran are the only options RAJ has and my only concern is their older they will begin to deteriorate. Two or three years to either player may be good, at no more than 10-12 for either guy.

  4. Lefty

    October 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I must be missing something here. Why would Cruz turn down the Rangers 14m qualifying offer to play for 10m here?

    This is a guy that needs to re-prove himself now that he’s clean of the juice. Why wouldn’t he take the 14m – go out and prove he can still play, and then go for the huge money next off-season?


    • schmenkman

      October 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Security is the main thing. The QO would be for only 2014, during which he can have an off-year, or even a career-ending injury. The $10M per would presumably be over at least 3 years.

      • Lefty

        October 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm

        Point taken and I see that side, but I guess I’m thinking that a guy with confidence in his abilities would go for the big payday instead. Of course if he had such confidence, I guess it’s possible he wouldn’t have used the juice to start with.

        IMO- The truth is there is one thing in common with almost all of these FA’s. They all want the club to take full responsibility for their health, and are not willing to assume any risk. I said this during the Hamels talks, I just think it’s wrong that the team has to take on total responsibility for years on end while a player ages and their health fails.

        Stepping off my box now.

    • Ryne Duren

      October 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Excellent point Lefty! And I agree. I’m not to keen on the guy as I have stated why in a previous post.

    • George

      October 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Lefty, while I agree that players should carry some of the contract risks regarding injury and age, they’ll continue to get off scott free if the actual teams continue handing out absurdly long contracts for what is inevitably diminishing skillls. Of course, if teams start offering only sensible years/dollars, the union will scream “collusion.”

      I can’t really fault either side. By the time a player reaches free agency, he has learned to live beyong the means of a normal working man and can’t really go back to selling Lady Kenmores in case of injury. The team needs talent to compete, and has to take on a certain risk unless they want to be called “the Marlins,” and lose their fanbase.

      In the long run, I think if a franchise really couldn’t afford the risks/responsibilities of an ARod-like contract, they wouldn’t do those contracts. There can’t be a front office so stupid it doesn’t know that a player will almost always be old/injured sometime during his tenure with the team. They allow those ridiculous contracts because in the long run, they don’t hurt the bottom line one iota.

      • schmenkman

        October 27, 2013 at 11:24 am

        I think I read that owners are getting an ever greater portion of the growing MLB revenue pie, and that will only accelerate as new and bigger TV contracts continue being signed. I’ll look for a link.

      • Lefty

        October 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm

        George, you’re right of course, i just wish someone would come to their senses and fix what I believe to be a broken system. If I had input, I’d suggest starting FA sooner so you get- and pay for – the best years, instead of the way it works now. Oh well, sometimes it just is what it is.

        Lady Kenmores! Do they still sell those? I think my mother used to have one. Thanks for the chuckle, the way the Eagles played today I needed one.

  5. Bob D

    October 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Cruz vs Mayberry? Cruz even if he cost more than $8 mill more. Mayberry has hit what? Only a dozen Hrs in a year, and Cruz 27 in 2/3’rds. Maybe if compared to Ruf we have a better comparison as Ruf could approach those power numbers. But I think the team needs to go into next year with 4 OF that could start. My pick is Choo with a Revere/Ruf platoon in LF and try to get another OF to add to mix beyond that. Ruf could also play a bit of first. Cruz would be in top 3 free agent OF’ers this year. (a trade for one could be another option)

  6. George

    October 26, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    From what I can see, if the Phils want a power hitting outfielder who bats righthanded and also plays decent defense, they’ll have to trade for one. If they’re willing to have flyballs fall when outfielder got bad reads or weren’t fast enough, and throws go off target like the often did in 2013, then maybe one of these free agents would work.

    People might point out the poor defense of Burrell or Ibanez, but those years, they had good defense in right and center. This season the entire outfield was below average defensively, and I don’t think the same sort of performance in 2014 is a good idea.

    • Lefty

      October 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Slightly off topic, but you reminded me of something I read recently.

      Would it surprise you to know that several defensive metrics show that Jason Werth has been measured as a negative defensive player the last five seasons? (09-13) I was shocked to read that, he was so good in 07-08.

    • hk

      October 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

      Great point, George. The OF defense was atrocious last year and the IF defense was also worse than years past. I wonder how much impact the bad defense had on the results posted by the likes of Kendrick and Lannan (and even Cloyd), pitchers who don’t K a lot of hitters and who rely on the defense more than the high K pitchers like Lee and Hamels.

  7. malcolm

    October 26, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Play. Play. Play. How do you pass on 30hr & 90+ rbi in this line up.

    • wbramh

      October 27, 2013 at 6:32 am

      Agree, especially since Dom Brown is the only player on the team who we know can produce those stats. If they got 20 HR & 75 RBI from Ryan Howard this year I’d be surprised and pleased since it would likely be good enough for 3rd highest RBIs on the team. Perhaps Ruf could reach 90 RBI since he’d probably hit over 30 HRs playing a full season but he’s likely to be platooned at 1st if RAJ invests in a FA outfielder like Cruz.

      I still contend the team has a competitive chance to land Stanton despite obvious competition around the league – and without giving up too much. And Stanton too is a risk since he has a history of injuries that have kept him off the field. That fact may cause some monied teams to hesitate getting into the Stanton sweepstakes (assuming the Marlins are open to one). Stanton’s medical past shouldn’t be a deal-killer for the Phillies because their need is too great. They have to gamble (and not give away a guy like Maikel Franco in the process). And like David Ortiz, a pop fly off Stanton’s bat is a home run at CBP. Good glove and arm, too and he’d be appreciated in this town.

  8. hk

    October 27, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Pass if it requires a 3 year deal. Play on a 1 year deal with a team option.

    Part of this team’s current predicament is that they have overpaid a few players on the expectation that those players will continue producing in their mid 30’s like they did in their late 20’s and early 30’s. I know that WAR is not a be-all and end-all calculation, but it is the best thing available for combining everything a player does (hitting, fielding and base-running) into one figure. According to two websites, each of which has a slightly different method of calculating WAR, Cruz’s defense and (to a lesser extent) base-running were so bad in his age 30 to 32 seasons that he was a below average player despite his 80 HR’s during those 3 seasons. When I look at the decline during his age 30 to 32 seasons as compared to his age 27 to 29 seasons, I fear what it’s going to look like to have him in the CPB OF for his age 34 and 35 seasons.

  9. bob d

    October 27, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Trades may be the way to go as there really isn’t a good way to make dramatic improvements over what the team already has. Free agent market is more of fringe starters to role players. Add Choo for center and maybe another righthanded bat like Hart on incentive laden deal maybe best option in free agent. I’m not sold on Revere in center or as every day starter. I would feel better with 4 or 5 good players for outfield than relying on the Wells and Mini Marts of the Phillies farm system. Uhg

  10. Hogey's Role

    October 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I would say if he doesn’t get a qualifying offer I would definitely play, I would try to sign him to a two year deal between 20-25 million with a third year option…

    However I think I might rather try to obtain Carlos Beltran for two years before any other outfielder right now…. I would also entertain mike morse as a backup to both of these guys, we need a right handed power bat no doubt…..

    I would try to sign Beltran first then Cruz then morse in that order if none of those three are obtainable I would stay in house or maybe pursue a trade, I would definitely be in play for cespedes if he became available

    • Lefty

      October 27, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      I like your second option better too, but I guess we have to wait for Ian to post on him.

      • Ian Riccaboni

        October 27, 2013 at 4:40 pm

        Honestly – one of the reasons I have not done one on Beltran yet is because I haven’t finalized my opinion on him yet. What do the politicians say now when they flip views? “Their position has evolved?” I’m in the evolution stage with Beltran and want to make sure I have stopped evolved before I put something down in “print”.

      • Hogey's Role

        October 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm

        There is also Corey hart, though his knee surgeries might only limit him to first base now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Phillies Nation has been bringing Phillies fans together since 2004 with non-stop news, analysis, trade rumors, trips, t-shirts, and other fun stuff!

Browse the Archives

Browse by Category

Copyright Phillies Nation, LLC 2004-2016
Not Affiliated with Major League Baseball or the Philadelphia Phillies

To Top