Nelson Cruz rumors: Mariners 'all in' on free-agent OF

USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners seem to be the front-runners for Nelson Cruz. That probably isn't a good thing for them.

The Seattle Mariners are "all in" on Nelson Cruz and are "cautiously optimistic" that they'll sign the free-agent outfielder, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Cruz is one of several big-name free agents left on the market who have denied qualifying offers and thus will net their former teams an additional draft pick. The Mariners have a protected first-round pick, so they'll need to part with only a second-round pick, softening the blow of taking a chance on a guy like Cruz.

More from Lookout Landing: Saying no to Cruz

Seattle appears to be in win-now mode after signing Robinson Cano to a $240 million deal earlier this offseason. Cano has hit everywhere he has played, so the change in location might not have as much of a bearing as his simply getting older on whether or not his success continues in Seattle. However, both ballpark and age could present concerns when it comes to Cruz.

Since he became a full-time player in 2009, Cruz has hit .272/.331/.511. Much of that production came at the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington, where Cruz has a lifetime .294/.356/.555 line. Away from home, Cruz hasn't been the same threat in the batter's box, managing to hit just .242/.299/.435 in almost 1,600 plate appearances.

More from Baseball Nation: Cruz a free-agent mistake

That doesn't bode well for Cruz or the Mariners if the 33-year-old veteran winds up in Seattle. Aside from what appears to be an aberrant 2013 season in which Safeco Field actually had a higher park factor than the Ballpark at Arlington, the Rangers' home has been a hitter's paradise while Seattle has been almost the complete opposite. The five-year park factor average for Arlington is 1.15, according to ESPN's version of the statistic, approximately 30 points higher than Seattle's 0.85. With that massive of a difference, it isn't a stretch to say that Cruz would likely produce closer to his career road line than his fairly gaudy home numbers. There's also no telling if, or how much, performance-enhancing drugs might have affected the performance of Cruz, who in 2013 served a 50-game ban for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, over the past several years.

Maybe "cautious" is the right word, but all indications point to the Mariners using it in the wrong context in regards to Cruz.

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