Most people are safely tucked in their beds at 12:01 a.m. on any given night, but the lights will be on at Citizens Bank Park in the very first hour of Tuesday morning because at exactly one minute after midnight the MLB free-agent market opens.
The Philadelphia Phillies should be among the first in line and that’s not just wishful thinking. The club has been rumored to be near inking a new TV contract that would put roughly $1 billion in its corporate pockets. The organization could either stash that money under the figurative mattress or go to baseball’s equivalent of a shopping mall and spent it. Since attendance fell from first to sixth in the majors over the past year, spending money to drive those attendance figures upward and make more cash has to be the call.
For the past two months the club has been making a list that no doubt includes signing at least two reliable late-inning relievers and one right-handed hitting outfield bat. The relievers are plentiful but the bats are not, and the Phillies should concentrate on one guy to improve their bench in free agent Nelson Cruz, 33, of the Texas Rangers.
The Dominican has hit 22 home runs in each of his last five seasons, numbers that no doubt would rise at hitters’ friendly Citizens Bank Park. He is a right-handed batter, a valuable commodity for a team top-heavy with left-handed hitters. He is more than an adequate defensive outfielder, and that’s important because the Phillies currently have a converted second baseman, Cesar Hernandez, playing center and a converted first baseman, Darin Ruf, playing left.
The one knock on Cruz has been his Biogenesis suspension this season. But the Phillies have had one of their own, catcher Carlos Ruiz, suspended for PEDs for 25 games, and he is expected to receive a nice free-agent contract himself. The Phillies will have to do enough proper vetting of Cruz before signing, but if he passes that test his history of performance would immediately bolster their offensive profile.
Cruz won’t solve all of their problems, but the first call to his agent should come at 12:01 a.m. After they hang up, they can then start to make calls for bullpen help.
Mike Gibson, an Associated Press Sports Editors’ Association and Keystone Press Association award-winner for Best Sports Story and Best Sports Feature, is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.