One thing I can always count on in November: Good food and plenty of baseball rumors. You never get tired of both.
The Astros arguably have a need at designated hitter. One of the best designated hitters in recent memory is a free agent. Can’t say that I’m surprised in the reported interest as stated by Jon Heyman of Fancred.
Nelson Cruz has been a constant source of power dating back to his 33 home run outburst with the Rangers back in 2009. From 2009 through 2018, there hasn’t been an active hitter with more home runs than Cruz at 338. In his most recent season with the Mariners, the slugger slashed .256/.342/.509 with 37 home runs and a 134 wRC+. While he only has 56 1/3 innings in the field as a defensive player during the past two seasons, the right-handed hitter has made a fine living as Seattle’s primary DH. Even though he is 38-years old, his age shouldn’t matter as much as he continues to play DH. It is also easy to see why other teams like the White Sox and Rays would show interest.
Any team with a DH spot open, like the Astros, should give Cruz a call during the offseason. Yes, I know that Houston already has Tyler White (144 wRC+ in 237 PA) waiting in the wings as an internal option at DH. There is also gobs of talent in the minors to lean on. The Astros also value roster flexibility, as evidenced by the playing time of Marwin Gonzalez, Tony Kemp, and Yuli Gurriel in 2018. Signing Cruz would signal a slightly different direction from the Astros in roster construction. In light of the current state of the starting rotation, though, it does make sense to beef up the offense to help cover any potential deficiencies.
Cruz is simply a proven hitter at the major league level. For as much as Evan Gattis did in his time with the Astros, Cruz would be an upgrade at DH. With Houston’s window open, why not sign Cruz to a short-term contract to play as the primary DH? FanGraphs’ estimates Cruz will earn anywhere from $14 to $16 million per season. The annual value would be in line with his time in Seattle as he earned a base salary of $14 million per season since 2015. At his age, it is rather doubtful if it would take more than a two-to-three year commitment to sign him. In other words, a hypothetical Cruz contract won’t hamper a team’s payroll for the long-term.
While I am not sure if it would happen, Cruz-to-Houston does make sense. Not only would he play for a contender with the Mariners signaling a rebuild is on the way, the Astros would shore up their offense. Adding the 38-year old slugger would go a long way to help a lineup that felt like one big bat short all season long in 2018.