Mariners turn to Nelson Cruz in attempt to boost offense

Nelson Cruz, who hit a major league-best 40 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles last season, has agreed to a four-year, $57 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to a report out of Cruz’s native Dominican Republic.

The Mariners are betting that Nelson Cruz's power will translate to Safeco Field. (USA TODAY Sports)
The Mariners are betting that Nelson Cruz's power will translate to Safeco Field. (USA TODAY Sports)

Cruz, whose market collapsed last winter due to the stifling qualifying-offer system and his lingering drug suspension, had a career year in Baltimore. He carries the qualifying offer once again but apparently is the right bat at the right time for the Mariners, who will sacrifice a draft pick to the Orioles.

Forever chasing runs at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, the Mariners haven’t had an offense rank in the American League’s top half since 2007. Over the years, they’ve bet on the likes of Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins, Kendrys Morales, Jesus Montero, Mike Morse and Corey Hart, even Raul Ibanez and Jack Cust. Some have helped. Most have not.

They made progress in 2014 after investing $240 million in Robinson Cano, who lobbied for the addtion of Cruz last year after signing. Kyle Seager is an emerging star and is expected to sign a seven-year, $100 million contract extension soon. Dustin Ackley is becoming the player the Mariners thought he would be. Austin Jackson, acquired in a mid-summer trade, was an upgrade in center field.

Add to that Cruz, a right-handed bat in a lineup that needed one, and the Mariners, who chased free agent Victor Martinez until he re-signed with the Detroit Tigers, could have themselves a more legitimate offense to go with a very sturdy pitching staff.

The risk, of course, is that Cruz is 34 years old. The Orioles, who got Cruz at a bargain $8 million in 2014, reportedly had offered him a three-year contract.

Cruz batted .271 with 40 home runs and 108 RBI for the AL West champion Orioles. He was not a creation of Camden Yards, either. Cruz batted for a higher average (.289 to .252) and higher OPS (.930 to .783) on the road, where he also hit 25 of his 40 home runs.

El Caribe was first to report the agreement between Cruz and the Mariners.

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