Rangers Should Not Give Nelson Cruz Qualifying Offer, Likely Will
By Eric Reining
Per ESPN Dallas’s Todd Willis, Jon Daniels said the Rangers “will likely make a qualifying offer to [Nelson] Cruz.”
This comes at the heels of something I wrote last night — mentioning it’s not something I would do — but it’s fairly obvious that Daniels has a better grasp on business than I do, and it’s also to say I don’t have to agree with everything the front office chooses to do, even if I do find them to be right significantly more often than not.
Cruz will be entering into his age-34 season, where hitter decline historically becomes more pronounced, and is coming off a .266/.327/.506 (122 wRC+) season where he played in 109 games, shortened, of course, by a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
I like Nelson Cruz a lot as a baseball player, because let’s be honest: Dude can absolutely shit on the baseball when he’s in the box, proven by depositing 27 HRs in only 456 plate appearances in 2013. He has delivered Ranger fans a plethora of awe-inspiring moments in the past, most notably his historic ALCS MVP performance in 2011 where he hit an ALCS record 6 HRs and drove in an ALCS record 13 runs in 6 games.
But in acknowledging the good, with Nellie, he is also one of the more overrated players in the American League. People fall in love with the power numbers, and I get that, but many national and local media members do a disservice to the Rangers and their fan base by scapegoating Cruz as the reason, above all, for why Texas didn’t reach the playoffs this year.
Depending on whether you follow FanGraphs, which had Cruz at +1.5 fWAR in 109 games, or Baseball Reference, which had him at +2.0 bWAR, you are essentially looking at a +2.5- to +3.0-win player in 2013 — given he played a full season. The extra win he theoretically would have delivered over the course of 2013 was made up for by Alex Rios (+1.1 fWAR, +1.0 bWAR in 47 games with Texas), and Rios actually plays defense and steals bases.
To that end, the perception of Nelson Cruz’s overall contributions significantly outweigh what he is in reality: A designated hitter. Which, if Jon Daniels indeed gives him the $14 million qualifying offer, is what Cruz will be paid to be.
Given extreme market inflation in recent years, aided by a shitload of added television revenue, the value of each win has grown to about $6 million. So if Cruz accepts the one-year, $14 million deal, he will be paid like a +2.0- to +2.5-win player, or about what he would have been in 2013 had he not experienced a 50-game suspension. Since a DH doesn’t provide any value on defense, and since Nelson Cruz offers next to no value stealing bases, his bat is going to have to be damn good to justify $14 million, according to the WAR/$ paradigm.
Should Cruz reject the qualifying offer, the Rangers will be entitled to the first round draft pick from whichever team he chose to sign with. But, considering a murky market for alleged PED users, and the fact that Nellie has stated repeatedly he wants to return to Texas, it seems like a foregone conclusion that, if he’s offered, he will take it.
I’m not fundamentally opposed to Nelson being the DH, because that’s truly where he belongs at this stage of his career. I’m just saying it’s not something I would do. That money would be better spent elsewhere.