Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
The more I think about it, maybe Sandy Alderson should have signed Chris Young and Nelson Cruz. I see lots of people still debating one over the other, but for $16 million the Mets could have had both players for just one season.
In his talk with ESPN 98.7 FM in New York on Tuesday, Alderson said he signed Young in hopes that he could hit at least .240 with 15 home runs and be an insurance policy for rookie center field Juan Lagares. He’s on pace to do this.
At the time Young signed with the Mets, Cruz was seeking a five-year, $80 million deal. However, after misreading the open market, he ended up signing a one-year, $8 million to play for Baltimore, where he alone already has almost more home runs than the entire Mets starting lineup.
“They’re different types of players,” Alderson said after Cruz landed with the Orioles (Daily News, Feb. 23). “I’m not here to criticize Cruz. He brings power to the table, but he doesn’t bring defense, and he doesn’t have our approach (at the plate).”
If that approach is hitting 19 home runs, Alderson is right, Cruz certainly has a different approach to hitting than these current Mets. That said, Alderson is also right about Cruz’s defense, which is terrible. However, for a team struggling to hit for power, it’s hard to deny that Cruz’s bat would be anything other than a major help these days, which would have likely offset any errors he made in the field.
The thing Alderson and the Mets need to understand about fans repeatedly moaning about payroll is that, in New York City, there is an expectation that – at the very least – they can and will make a reasonable one-year, $8 million bet on a power bat, especially since Alderson openly says generating power and offense is this team’s biggest problem. I have no doubt that Alderson can justify passing on Cruz, be it for defense, hitting philosophy, or trending, statistical reasons. I agree, signing Cruz for five years would have been beyond stupid, a view clearly shared by the other 29 GMs in baseball. However, at one year, he would have done nothing to limit future payrolls and he may also have solved Alderson’s biggest problem on the roster.
What’s more, given how well Lagares is playing, if Young gets on track, Cruz would have been an ideal trade candidate, similar to Marlon Byrd last season. These are the type of short-term, low-risk, super-high upside deals that Billy Beane does so well in Oakland. I’d like to see more of these type of deals from Alderson, who is very mindful of the need to compete today, while simultaneously building for the future.