New York Mets are grumbling that general manager Sandy Alderson should have signed Nelson Cruz instead of Chris Young during the offseason. On the surface, the numbers are stark, and support their criticism. Cruz is having a career year so far with the Baltimore Orioles, batting .300/.369/.599 with 22 home runs coming into Saturday. Young has been miserable, batting .195/.281/.310 with four home runs. So why didn’t Alderson sign Cruz instead of Young?
First of all, the comparison isn’t apples-to-apples. When Alderson signed Young to a one-year, $7.25 million deal in November, Cruz was looking for a five-year contract. In December, it was widely reported that Cruz actually turned down a five-year, $75-million contract offer by the Seattle Mariners. It wasn’t until February that Cruz settled for a one-year pact with the Orioles worth $8 million.
Why did he sign a one-year contract when he was looking for a long-term pact? Because no one – not the Mets, not anyone – was willing to give a 33-year-old with one skill a long-term contract. Cruz played in a hitter’s park in Arlington, TX with the Texas Rangers. His on-base percentage rarely got higher than .320, and he was a liability in the field. Because of his latter failing, at his age, the National League would have been a questionable destination for him anyway.
But if Cruz were available in November for $8 million on a one-year contract, teams would have been knocking down his door trying to scoop him up. He would have been the obvious choice over Young. But that’s not how it played out. Instead, the Mets, who wanted a right-handed outfield bat on the cheap, took a chance on Young. Had the Mets waited until February, they may not have gotten either player.
I guess Mets fans expect Alderson to be clairvoyant. He should have been able to see into the future and predict exactly what was to happen. After all, he’s some kind of Moneyball genius, right? Isn’t he supposed to know these things?
Even if Cruz came to the Mets, he wouldn’t be the home run hitter he is now. Citi Field has eaten up many a power hitter in its five years of existence. Due to its dimensions, or the fact that the ball just doesn’t carry that well there, the Mets’ home ballpark has frustrated the likes of David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, and now Curtis Granderson. Does anyone think Cruz would have 22 home runs right now if he played for the Mets? Chances are, the Bay comparisons would have started by now, especially if Alderson inked him to a long-term deal.
To say Cruz would have helped the Mets more than Young is true. To say the Mets ever had a chance of signing him to a one-year deal is to ignore reality.