Nelson Cruz is reportedly seeking four years and $75 million dollars. This is interesting because Cruz is a horrible free-agent idea who shouldn't get anywhere near that. We're all busy mocking Robinson Cano's reported $300 million demand, but he's busy pointing at Cruz and saying, "See? See?"
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of Cruz's value as a free agent -- age, injury history, lack of patience -- and his connection to Biogenesis is one of them. Considering the money being discussed, apparently the Biogenesis connection is as relevant as his astrological sign. Which, let's see, he was born on July 1, and that …
Oh, god. He's literally been a Cancer on every team he's ever been on. Literally. Yet he's still going to get a ton of money.
This brings us to Ryan Braun. When his 2013 season came to an ignominious end, there was a temptation to look at the contract and laugh. Or sob. Or pity the poor, small-market Brewers. They had tethered their ship to the wrong tugboat, and it was going to cost them for years.
The contract in question, via Baseball Prospectus and Cot's:
2021:$15M mutual option ($4M buyout)
Total: $125 million over eight years, with the potential for $136 million over nine.
Braun just turned 30 this month. That's important. But since Braun signed this deal, a 32-year-old Josh Hamilton signed a five-year, $133 million deal. A 32-year-old Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million deal. Would you rather have Josh Hamilton, two years older, or would you rather have Ryan Braun on a buy-five-get-four deal for the same price?
Danged straight. Even if you care about the Biogenesis stuff, which apparently teams don't, Braun's still a steal compared to what he'd get on the open market. He would still get a small country or island nation on the open market.
Let's guess at just how much. At least two Nelson Cruzes, for sure. Probably not the Pujols deal, if only because that deal is currently the scarecrow in the corn field of free agency. More than the Hamilton deal, certainly.
One of the wrinkles on the imaginary deal, though, is that Braun wasn't quite Braun before he was suspended.
That's still a heckuva hitter, don't get me wrong. It's just not the season you'd expect from a perennial MVP candidate like Braun. It's also 225 at-bats we're talking about. That's Kevin Maas territory, for better or worse. Anything can happen in 225 at-bats, and it's not like Braun was a wreck last year. He was still excellent. So I'm ignoring it and projecting a normal aging curve, which means Braun will still be dynamic for the next couple of years. The decline will look like those 225 at-bats, but over a full season, which is still pretty excellent.
In this scenario, I'm pretending the Biogenesis smoothies didn't have the Popeye-spinach effect. If teams willing to gamble $50 to $75 million are certain, I sure as heck am, too.
It's a pitcher's world out there right now. Power is at a premium. It's why an enigma like Jose Abreu got $68 million guaranteed without playing a major-league game. It's why Cruz is expecting even more, despite being older, bad at defense, and suspendier. It's why Garrett Jones suddenly became a hot topic after the Pirates cut him loose, even though hitters like him are basically dandruff from 2001.
And here you are, with a chance to get Ryan Braun, who is one of the premium power hitters of his generation, even if he was roided to the gills, which might have helped him just a touch. He would be the best power hitter on the market by a factor of a zillion. And he would be 30, just young enough to hope for four or five top-quality years before the eventual decline.
Consider where the Mets were asking about him:
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, responding by phone to a question about whether the Mets had "checked in" on Braun with the Brewers, saying, "If you could count a four-word sentence as checking …"
That might depend on what the actual sentence was I told him, so I asked.
"What's up with Braun?" Alderson relayed.
"He's cool. He's been picking the guitar back up. Yeah, totally. He's just figuring stuff out, just figuring stuff out."
The Brewers basically warded the Mets off with a stick. The Mets were drooling, absolutely drooling at the idea of Braun with his current contract. Beats Nelson Cruz.
I'll guess nine years and $190 million. And the .... oh ... Rangers. Wait, no, Tigers. No, Rangers. Marlins.
Rangers, final answer. And the deal would surprise everyone until we got used to it in a couple years, just like the last one.