Detroit Tigers Must Avoid Nelson Cruz At All Costs

Jim Cowsert – USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, ESPN analyst Jim Bowden suggested that free agent slugger Nelson Cruz may wind up with the Detroit Tigers. Cruz is a fine player, and he has carved out a nice career for himself, but bringing him to Detroit would be a questionable move at best. The team would be much better off sticking with the original plan of using a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field.

Cruz was suspended 50 games last season for using PEDs, and there is therefore some concern that his numbers may take a dip without the juice. That is just a small part of the reason why the Tigers should not bother with him. In fact, it is an issue that is going to be put on the back burner for the time being. There are other reasons the Tigers should not sign Cruz — big reasons.

The biggest reason why the Tigers should not sign Cruz is because the team simply does not need another right-handed bat — even one who is capable of hitting 30 home runs. Signing Cruz and putting him in left field would give the Tigers’ lineup seven right-handed hitters, one switch-hitter and just one left-handed batter who hit .227 last year in Alex Avila.

There are at least a half dozen moves that would make more sense than signing Cruz, and one of them would be signing the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales, putting him at first base and moving Miguel Cabrera back to third. 

Moreover, Cruz, a late bloomer, did not catch on as a regular player until his age-28 season in 2009, and he has had all of his success to date playing his home games in the steamy Ballpark in Arlington, where the ball carries extremely well. The Tigers would be setting themselves up for disaster by placing Cruz in chilly and spacious Comerica Park in April and expecting the same results.

Although Cruz has eclipsed 20 home runs in each of the past five seasons, his batting average has never been higher than .266, save for his 2010 season in which he hit .318 in just 108 games. He has never driven in 100 runs and has not hit over 30 home runs since 2009, although he almost certainly would have last season if he had not been suspended. He finished the season with 27 home runs in just 109 games.

There is an argument to be made that Cabrera would benefit from having a proven home run hitter batting in the no. 4 spot. However, people seem to have quickly forgotten that Cabrera hit .344 and won a batting tittle in 2011 with Victor Martinez protecting him.

Granted, Cabrera was hitting cleanup back then and Martinez was batting fifth, and now they have each moved up a spot. Martinez may not be a prototypical No. 4 hitter, but he should provide ample protection for Cabrera nevertheless.

Additionally, it was originally reported in late November that Cruz would be seeking a four-year contract worth $75 million. He may have dropped his price with Spring Training just around the corner, but his price tag is most likely still too high.

The Tigers should not be so quick to give up on Dirks either. In 2012, he hit .322/.370/.487 with 18 doubles, five triples and eight home runs in 88 games. He didn’t quite live up to the fans expectations last year, but he played through a knee injury throughout the entire season. However, Dirks never once made excuses for himself and deserves to be a given a chance to show what he can do at full strength in 2014.

Lastly, Cruz is already going to turn 34-years old next summer, and the Tigers have a pair of young, quality left-handed hitting outfield prospects in Daniel Fields and Tyler Collins. Signing Cruz to a multi-year deal, plugging up an outfield spot and blocking the way for them would be a folly. Even signing him to a one-year deal would be a mistake.

Brad Faber is a Detroit Tigers writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter, or add him to your network on Google.

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