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Rumors linking Mariners, Nelson Cruz heating up

By Shannon Drayer

Hard to believe there is any fuel left for the hot stove with just eight days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, but the national media continues to feed the fire with reports Tuesday that the Mariners' talks with free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz have intensified.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Mariners could possibly go a third year – guaranteed or option – for Cruz, whose initial demands were said to be in the neighborhood of five years $75 million.

Judging from comments on this blog, this move would not be a popular one for a number of reasons including the PED suspension, poor defense and numbers away from Arlington. On the flip side just about everyone in baseball I have talked to, including scouts and former players, say this is a move the Mariners need to make with the main reason being that Robinson Cano needs protection in the lineup. I understand that protection in the lineup by the numbers is closer to myth than fact but most in baseball see things differently on this issue.

Jeff Sullivan at U.S.S. Mariner, who is not thrilled about the idea of Cruz in a Mariners uniform, wrote a great piece a few of weeks ago that looked at under what circumstances would Cruz make sense. Give it a read if you are feeling nervous about this possible signing. It might make you feel a tad bit better.

Sullivan states that Cruz would bring value to the team, just not a lot. The key for the Mariners if they do make this move is to make it at the right price: their price. Assuming that the numbers will not be ridiculous for Cruz – and they shouldn't be at this point in the game – then the thing to remember no matter how much you do not like this move it is a move that won't cripple the ballclub. The dollars are different now from what they were when the Mariners signed Chone Figgins.

I would rather see the Mariners throw this money at a starting pitcher, but if they go in this direction – and this is assuming these reports are correct and the Mariners do indeed have the dollars to sign Cruz – I somewhat understand why they would go bat over starter. They have enough starting pitching right now to start the season. Depth is the question, but that is something that can be picked up later, perhaps in trade, which is what I have been hearing their preference to be. It would be a roll of the dice that Cruz's offense added to this lineup at a further sacrifice of defense would bring more value than what any starter that is still on the market would bring to the rotation in place of what they already have.

There is plenty more to talk about with Cruz if the Mariners sign him, but for now let's wait until it actually happens.

Note

• "The Hot Stove League Show" can be heard on 710 ESPN tonight from 7-9 p.m. Joining me and Aaron Goldsmith in studio for two hours of baseball talk will be Mike Blowers. Scheduled guests include new Mariner Corey Hart, Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel, new first-base and catching coach John Stearns and Ryan Divish from The Seattle Times.

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