Nelson Cruz Not a Fit for Detroit Tigers


Aug 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz (17) stands in the dugout before the start of the game against the Oakland Athletics at O.Co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday MLB Trade Rumors put up a speculative post which included nine possible destinations for free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. Listed among the potential suitors were our Detroit Tigers.

"Tigers. Cruz would be a good fit in Detroit’s lineup, which currently has Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field and Victor Martinez as DH. The Tigers just signed Davis and therefore might not be likely to add another outfielder, but Davis would also be helpful in a reserve role. The Tigers’ seeming disinterest in re-signing Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended last year for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, might also suggest a lack of interest in Cruz, who was also implicated. That might be a red herring, however, since Jose Iglesias‘ emergence was certainly a factor in Peralta’s departure."

The Tigers were listed under the “more speculative” category of teams — so there’s no strong link implied — but I think it’s a long, long shot at any rate. Detroit is always going to be listed as a possible landing spot for the bigger name free agents as long as Mike Ilitch is around and willing to spend, but I think that’s as far as the possible connection goes here.

As Charlie Wilmoth writes in the blurb on the Tigers, they just brought in Rajai Davis, and the implication has always been that he’s going to get a chunk of playing time, particularly against left-handed starters. It’s true that he could be useful in a purely reserve role, but the Tigers are committing $5 million to him for next season. That’s not a ton of money in the baseballing world, but it’s not nothing either, especially for an organization who seemed to spend a good amount of the offseason to-date figuring out ways to cut payroll.

But money aside, it’s not clear that Cruz would represent an upgrade over the apparent Andy Dirks-Rajai Davis platoon. Cruz is a big bat, that’s for sure, but he hasn’t been extremely productive in a total value sense for a few years now. According to FanGraphs, he hasn’t been worth more than 1.5 WAR since the 2010 season. The rule of thumb is that an average starter will produce 2.0 WAR in a season, so it might be that Cruz isn’t even a particularly good player anymore due to his poor defensive ratings.

It takes no stretch of the imagination to envision Dirks and Davis combining for that same 1.5-2.0 WAR range with their above average baserunning, average-to-above defense, and perhaps-average hitting, and they’re already under contract for less than $6 million total. Cruz is reportedly seeking a four-year commitment at more than $18 million per season.