COMMENTARY | The Oakland Athletics haven't exactly been known to be free spenders on the free-agent market in the past. A vast majority of the big moves that general manager Billy Beane has made to bring in upper-echelon talent has been through trades with other teams.
Reports that the A's are indeed interested in signing Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who hit 27 homers last season despite being suspended 50 games, seem to fly in the face of this philosophy.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports indicated last week that the A's are a "dark horse" for Cruz's services.
"A's general manager Billy Beane likes to pick his sports for the big play, and Cruz is apparently a player Beane likes from Cruz's early days in the A's organization."
Heyman also indicated that the Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are interested in Cruz. Common sense seems to indicate that Philadelphia isn't in the running for Cruz after it inked Marlon Byrd to a deal last week.
The last time Oakland made big play for an elite free agent was when it courted Adrian Beltre back in 2011. In the end, Beltre chose to sign with the division rival Texas Rangers, but the A's were considered a finalist at the time.
As Heyman indicated in the link above, Beane does like to pick his spots. The A's made a surprise run for Tim Hudson before he ended up signing with the cross-bay San Francisco Giants earlier this week. Considering that Hudson ended up inking a two-year, $23 million deal, it does appear that the A's have the money to seek a high-value free agent.
The idea of going into the 2014 season with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Cruz as the A's starting outfield has to be intriguing to the front office. They combined for 75 homers last season.
For his part, Cruz has struggled hitting in Oakland, where he has a career .192 average in 50 games. It must, however, be noted that the veteran was going up against one of the better pitching staffs in baseball in those 50 games. That may have skewed his statistics a bit.
If Oakland were to land Cruz, it would have to make a follow-up move with Josh Reddick, who wouldn't be happy playing off the bench. The Toronto Blue Jays have expressed interest in Brett Anderson and have a need for an outfielder. Pure conjecture on my part, but the A's could look to send a package to Canada in exchange for closer Casey Janssen. This makes a ton of sense considering incumbent closer Grant Balfour is likely to depart via free agency.
Back to the Cruz rumors for a second. There isn't a ton of information out there on what his value might be. Considering that there are multiple teams interested in his services, Oakland could easily find itself in a bidding war for his services. As a small-market team, we know all too well how that would turn out.
Let's just say the 33-year-old Cruz ends up signing for somewhere near $10 million per season. This would seem to eliminate the possibility that Oakland retains 2013 staff ace Bartolo Colon, who is currently a free agent. The A's are interested in bringing Colon back on what would be a team-friendly deal. Some suggest that the deal Oakland is currently discussing with Colon is of the one-year variety. If so, it may not preclude the A's from being able to chase Cruz.
In the end, we have to believe that these rumors have some legs to them. As evidenced by their last two postseason performances, the A's are in desperate need of adding another power bat to a lineup that was shut down on a consistent basis by the Detroit Tigers over a 10-game span. If the A's are able to add Cruz to a lineup that already includes Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss in the middle, they will be much more dangerous come October.
It's also important to look at Oakland's rotation if it decides to pass on Colon in lieu of acquiring a power hitter. The likes of Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Dan Straily are more than capable of holding down the fort. In addition, signing Cruz wouldn't preclude Beane from adding a mid-tier veteran starter.
Depending on how the Cruz negotiations play out, I can easily see Oakland being able to swoop in and acquire his services. It obviously has enough money available to spend on a free agent. It now remains to be seen in what direction the A's will go and whether Cruz is interested in coming to Oakland.
Vincent Frank has been a follower of the Oakland Athletics since the late 1980s and has written about the team on multiple sites, including SB Nation and eDraft. He attends games on a consistent basis and talks about the team on his weekly radio show.
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