At least one team is out of the Nelson Cruz sweepstakes, as the Mets have outright rejected the notion that they are in any discussions with the recently suspended former Rangers outfielder, according a report from ESPN NY.
Cruz, who finished last season with 27 HRs and 76 RBI in the 109 games he did play amid his 50-game suspension, is finally attracting attention after a quiet winter -- just not from the Mets. While he was an All-Star just last year, obvious questions have been raised about how exactly he got there considering the Biogenesis suspension for PED use. Once a solid corner outfielder -- he led all right fielders in Range Factor in 2010-11 -- Cruz has developed a less than stellar defensive reputation, arm aside. When coupled with his inability to reach the heights of his 2008 and 2010 seasons, where he had years of 1030 and 950 OPS, the steroid accusations have hit Cruz's market value particularly hard.
Also, if his contract were not tied to compensation in the form of a draft pick, Cruz would have likely had a significantly less trouble signing a deal even with his connections to the Biogenesis clinic scandal. But that hasn't stopped several team from browsing, with up to five teams looking to acquire the outfielder's services according to a report from NBC's Hardball Talk.
At the top of that list has long been rumored to be the Mariners, who have expressed interest in the outfielder. Reports of a deal happening go as far back as two and a half weeks ago, according to former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden. But it appears that money is the stumbling block between the two, with Cruz desiring a contract indicative of someone who has averaged 35 HRs and over 100 RBI every 162 games, and the Mariners wanting to pay him like a 33-year-old outfielder who just got off a 50-game steroid suspension. If it doesn't work out for the Mariners, it appears that the Orioles and the Rangers are possible destinations, though the Rangers appear to be the "fall back" option.
The estimates on Cruz's value vary wildly, with some predicting a five-year, $75 million dollar contract while others seem to think that the likelihood of either those years or that annual dollar amount are slim. According to a forecast by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick following the Winter Meetings, anything close to even Curtis Granderson's four-year, $60 million deal seemed "out of whack," despite reports of similar numbers being brought up by others. Ironically, that contract may be the reason why the Mets didn't even feign interest in the slugger, squashing the rumor in a New York minute. What is inarguable, however, is that the longer Cruz remains a free agent, the worse it will get for his wallet.