Earlier today, it was said the Marlins are very likely to trade Matt Lindstrom at these meetings and the Rays were very much in the mix. Ho hum, another big hard throwing righty coming off a bad season who is jokingly called Kyle Farnsworth 2.0. It has even been tweeted that Peter Gammons thinks the long-rumored Burrell for Bradley swap will go down tomorrow. That’s not why I am up at 11:00pm posting on a Sunday night. That reason comes from Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports who is reporting the Rays have called the Rangers inquiring about Nelson Cruz. I sure hope this is not an old piece of paper from last year’s meetings when it was reported the Rays were calling about Cruz but “were not willing to give up Edwin Jackson for him.”
In some baseball writing circles, fantasy sports, and the Twitterverse, it is impossible to separate my name from Nelson Cruz. I have had a bit of a bromance with him. My first fantasy baseball column at Fanball was dedicated to Nelson Cruz as a 2009 sleeper. I spent most of the 2008 off-season pimping Cruz to inquiring minds and personally drove up his roto market value in many mock drafts. As far as real baseball, I first suggested the Rays trade for him back in 2008. At that time he was wasting away in AAA for the Rangers and not even a member of the 40 man roster. The Rangers waited a very long time to promote him and they have not looked back since. Cruz is a power bat who plays outstanding defense in right field with both range and a very strong throwing arm. Where these rumors fit in right now are puzzling though unless the Rays want to avoid a platoon situation in right field and want to acquire Cruz pushing Joyce and Kapler to a 4th and 5th outfielder role for the team.
Cruz only makes $400,000 and was worth 3.6 wins above replacement last year; there are few bargains better than that in baseball right now. This is not a case where the Rays can find a bargain; the Rangers would only move Cruz for a very solid return because that salary put the Rangers in the driver’s seat. The only way it makes sense for them to do any deal is with a team that has a surplus of talent to deal from and the Rays do fit that description right now. As much as I would love to see Cruz in a Rays uniform, I don’t want to see it done at the cost of the organizational depth which is quite top-heavy right now. The Rangers have the best farm system in all of baseball right now so a move would need to involve major league talent rather than a handful of prospects. Obviously, when you are talking about Texas, the need for pitching comes up. Garza, Shields, and Price are clearly off the table in any trade discussions which leaves us with Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis as trade possibilities. I think we’d all prefer the club send the Big Texan home to Texas if it meant getting a guy like Cruz but I do not see Texas making that move and thus giving us the “Rays like Cruz but refuse to trade Wade Davis’ line we might see in stories later this week.