In 1998, the New York Mets signed Nelson Cruz out of the Dominican Republic. He never played above the Dominican Summer League in the Mets' organization, though, and was traded to the Oakland A's for infielder Jorge Velandia in 2000.
Cruz was traded from Oakland to the Texas Rangers in 2004 and did not become an everyday major league player until the age of 28 in 2009. He hit .260/.332/.524 with 33 home runs and 20 stolen bases that year. He has hit at least 20 home runs every year since and has slugged .500 in four of those five years. But there are reasons to be concerned about Cruz going forward.
With a career .294/.356/.556 line at home, Cruz has just a 242/.299/.435 line on the road, leading many to be skeptical of how he will perform outside of the friendly confines of Arlington. He has rated as a negative defender and baserunner each of the past three seasons, leading to a WAR of only 3.9 over those three years, below average for a regular corner outfielder. And, of course, he served a 50-game suspension because of his ties to Biogenesis this season.
Jon Daniels has stated that he expects to offer Nelson Cruz a qualifying offer, which means that if Cruz were to reach free agency, any team that signs him would lose its first unprotected draft pick. Since the Mets’ first round draft pick is protected, that means they would lose their second round pick.
A qualifying offer is a one year deal for about $14 million, so if Cruz were to reject that offer, it would be because he expects to get more on the open market. Jon Heyman reported in September that Cruz’s agents proposed a four-year, $56 million contract that the Rangers rejected. Recently, Fangraphs’ contract crowd-sourcing project estimated that Cruz would receive a three-year, $31.8 million contract.
The Mets do lack corner outfielders and players with power, but it is unclear how Cruz’s power would translate from Arlington to Citi Field. Despite his power, the other aspects of Cruz’s game prevent him from being more than an average regular at best. He may fit better on an American League team where he could occasionally DH. Players with power are often overpaid on the open market and given this front office’s tendencies, it seems unlikely that they will overpay for Cruz.