Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
My initial reaction to this question likely mirrored that of many others out there, something along the lines of "what, why would they do that?" After all, the Tigers have Torii Hunter in right, Victor Martinez at DH, and the Rajai Davis/Andy Dirks platoon in left. Where does Cruz fit? That's a perfectly logical approach, and add in the first round draft pick that would be lost for signing him, and it doesn't add up. But, that's also a short sighted view. Because Davis is only under contract for two years, Dirks is a question mark after a down 2013, and Hunter and Martinez are both free agents after the 2014 season. While the first round draft pick compensation will hurt, the Tigers have an opportunity to add a middle-of-the-lineup bat, with future position flexibility, and won't have to be fighting tooth and nail with others to sign him. If the Tigers can get him signed at a reasonable price tag, he can help the club in 2014, and provide assurances into the future that will stabilize future lineups as well.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
Normally I applaud teams for seeking value on the free agent market, and Cruz's potential salary would likely represent value for what he could provide to the lineup. That said, the attachment of draft pick compensation to his signing eliminates any value that may exist, and makes Cruz an undersireable commodity at this time. Cruz brings the threat of power to any lineup he is in, and he could help augment the offensive output of what is shaping up to be a shaky outfield in Detroit in 2014, but for a player that is unlikely to contribute everyday, the loss of a draft choice is a deal breaker. Some will cite Cruz's PED history/suspension, or his splits away from the Ballpark in Arlington, but none of that matters as much as the compensation -- both financially and in the form of a pick -- that must be surrendered for a part-time player. Should Cruz remain on the market past the point where draft pick compensation is required, then I believe the topic should be revisited as a viable possibility. Bottom line, the Tigers should pass for now, but would be wise to keep an open mind if Cruz's situation remains unchanged in a few months.
James Chipman, Senior Correspondent
Nelson Cruz entered the offseason as one of the top right-handed power bats on the open market. However, with less than two weeks until Spring Training officially begins, Cruz remains jobless. The recent departure of Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta's robust bats, coupled with Cruz's unemployment, have stirred up some media speculation linking the Tigers as potential suitors. And rightfully so. After all, Tigers' owner and billionaire Mike Ilitch is practically the human entity of Scrooge McDuck. Ilitch wants to win and he's made that quite clear over the years, routinely surprising Tigers' fans with top free agents at unsuspecting times. Signing Cruz wouldn't be the first time Ilitch pulled a rabbit out of his hat. In fact, these days Tigers fans almost expect and demand lavish signings such as this.
That being said, Cruz is a poor fit for the Tigers. Having already turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, signing the 33-year-old outfielder wouldn't be cheap. Furthermore, signing Cruz would cost the Tigers a compensatory draft pick in June. In addition, beyond the powerful bat Cruz has minimal value and is arguably a liability. Cruz doesn't hit for average, he's an absolute mess defensively and a below average runner. And, of course, there's also the elephant in the room--the aftermath of the Biogenesis cloud that so prominently hovers over him. Perhaps even more important than Cruz's shortcomings, the Tigers already have a solid platoon of left fielders under contract--Gold Glove nominee Andy Dirks ($1.625 million) and speedster Rajai Davis (2-year /$10 million).
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