Multiple reports today indicate that the Mets remain interested in free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. This is a bit surprising, considering that those reports suggest Cruz’s price tag is in the neighborhood of 4 years for $75 million. While the Mets need power and outfielders, I suggest that they pass on Cruz.
Cruz will be 34 next season, and if he were to sign for 4 years, the contract would have him being paid around $18.5 million at age 37 (depending upon front or back loading of the dollars in the contract). Cruz would bring much-needed power to the lineup (33, 22, 29, 24, 27 home runs per season from 2009-2013). However, he also strikes out often, averaging 121 Ks over the last 3 years. Cruz has also seen his defensive skills diminish in the recent past, and that would not serve him well in the spacious right field area of Citi Field. Although Cruz has some of what the Mets like (his OPS has ranged from .779 to .950 over the last 4 seasons), his age and the other holes in his game make him a gamble not worth taking.
As an alternative, if the Mets are willing to give a contract such as the one mentioned above, I continue to advocate for Curtis Granderson. Granderson does strike out often as well, but he’s a year younger than Cruz, and is a much better defensive outfielder. Granderson also runs well, and has an excellent successful stolen base percentage. In addition, Granderson has succeeded in New York (40+ home runs in 2 of his 4 seasons in the Bronx), and his signing would be a good public relations move for the Mets, who could use some of that right now.
If the Mets were to sign Granderson, an outfield of Eric Young Jr., Granderson, and Chris Young could be quite respectable. They would provide good defense, probably about 60 home runs, and perhaps 75 stolen bases. While Eric Young Jr. is best suited to be a super-sub on a good team, the Mets have too many holes to fill to make left field a priority. The signing of Chris Young and Granderson would move the focus to filling the glaring need at shortstop. An upgrade at that position will help the team incrementally more than an upgrade in left field. That would leave limited resources available (players and money) to add a bullpen piece and a starting pitcher (the latter could be filled internally if necessary).
Let us know your thoughts on whether or not Cruz is a fit for the Mets.