Jack Of All Trades: Nelson Cruz

To many casual baseball fans, Nelson Cruz still isn't a household name. Never mind that he hit 33 home runs last year and posted a ridiculous .318/.374/.576 line this season- respect has been hard to come by for the 30-year-old Cruz.

This is nothing new, incidentally. Cruz has been traded three times in his career, an astonishing total for a player with a good reputation and off-the-charts power. What's more interesting still is how little he's commanded in return. Let's relive the uneven goodness, shall we?

Cruz originally signed with the New York Mets as a free agent in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic. After three years in the Dominican Summer League, the Mets traded Cruz on August 30, 2000 to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Jorge Velandia. The Mets desperately needed another backup infielder who could handle shortstop, and Velandia was certainly a desperation move- he hit a cool .000 in both his 2000 and 2001 trials with the Mets, before rallying to .190 in his third and final stint with New York in 2003.

It took Cruz even longer to find his hitting stroke. He finally turned his power tool into a skill in 2003, popping 20 home runs for Single-A Kane County, but hit just .238. Finally, in 2004, his line improved dramatically; he hit a combined .326/.390/.562 at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A. That convinced the Milwaukee Brewers to deal their starting second baseman, Keith Ginter, to Oakland on December 16, 2004 for Cruz and pitcher Justin Lehr.

Once again, however, the booty for Cruz turned out to be unimpressive. Ginter had hit .262/.333/.479 in 2004 for Milwaukee, but slumped to .161/.234/.263 in 2005 for Oakland. He never played in the major leagues again.

Cruz, meanwhile, kept on hitting, but in the minor leagues – Milwaukee gave him just seven plate appearances during two seasons in the organization. (For reference, Brady Clark received 1,093 plate appearances during those same seasons.)

Finally, Milwaukee traded Cruz to the Texas Rangers, but the Rangers were actually after Carlos Lee, who also came to Arlington in the July 28, 2006 deal. The Brewers received Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and minor leaguer Julian Cordero.

Of all the players dealt for Cruz, Francisco Cordero actually produced for his new team, with 60 saves and a 11.6 K/9 ratio over his season-and-a-half in Milwaukee. Mench never hit in Milwaukee the way he had in Texas, Nix disappointed as well, and Julian Cordero never climbed above Single-A.

Lee hit .322/.369/.525 in his half-season with Texas before signing an immense contract with Houston that still has two years and $37MM left on it.

Cruz struggled mightily to get his major league OPS over .700 in 2006-2007, but he absolutely murdered the ball at Triple-A. Finally, in 2008, Cruz hit .330/.421/.609 in a big-league trial, and was in the major leagues to stay. From 2008-2010, Cruz has hit .292/.360/.555 in 1,093 plate appearances- the same exact number Brady Clark received from Milwaukee while Cruz languished in the minors.

Rest assured, the next time Nelson Cruz is traded, the package coming back will be significant.


26 Responses to Jack Of All Trades: Nelson Cruz Leave a Reply

  1. Guest 5 years ago

    That’s assuming he ever gets traded again…which he won’t be. The Rangers are gonna be rolling in the dough this offseason b/w their extra revenue from the postseason, their TV deal, and a likely significant raise in payroll (30 mil + just to take it into the $90 mil range). Cruz will most likely be extended, and live happily ever after in TX

    • angelsfan67 5 years ago

      The Rangers are going to have more money starting next year, but that is because of new owners not the new TV deal. That deal does not start until 2015.

      • laxtonto 5 years ago

        Actually… No.

        80M+ upfront (that is the low range estimate) and then the new deal starts in the 2013-2014 season which coincides with the end of the Astros and Rockets affiliation with FSW.

        Texas will have plenty of money just in time to have a ton of Type A and Type B FA in one of the deepest drafts in a long time and right before proposed hard slotting in the MLB draft.

      • Guest 5 years ago

        Regardless, the Rangers will have a lot of money to spend this offseason to take care of their pending contract situations. Which is a big sigh of relief down here, considering less than two months ago we were looking at possibly having to move Hamilton in addition to letting Lee walk w/o a fight in order to maintain monetary flexibility

        And as a side note to the article about Cruz…which was nice btw, Howard, I believe he even passed through waivers at one point in TX before he finally broke out. I think it was the winter before he was finally called up for good. He is an interesting story…and a big reason why I would be (and I think the Rangers are) hesitant to pull the plug on Chris Davis r/n

    • angelsfan67 5 years ago

      The Rangers are going to have more money starting next year, but that is because of new owners not the new TV deal. That deal does not start until 2015.

  2. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    The reason he gets no respect is that he has a line of .276/.324/.480 away from the launching pad in Arlington. He has a career line away from Arlington of .230/.298/.440

    Hardly a player to get excited about if he inst playing in Arlington!

    • blalock84 5 years ago

      I bet you didnt know this, but the splits for RH hitters in Arlington are actually negative. Its not a great place to hit for RHH.

  3. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    The reason he gets no respect is that he has a line of .276/.324/.480 away from the launching pad in Arlington. He has a career line away from Arlington of .230/.298/.440

    Hardly a player to get excited about if he inst playing in Arlington!

  4. Guest 5 years ago

    I mean, his career numbers suck b/c he spent a few years before his breakout season just sucking in general. I don’t even think that line away from Arlington is bad for this year…I’m sure a lot of teams would want a right fielder with a good glove, explosive power and an .800 OPS. Including your Braves (maybe not a rightfielder specifically, but another outfielder for sure)

    And it’s nice to see a Yankees fan who doesn’t sound like a complete you-know-what. I was beginning to wonder if you guys existed haha. Having that said…bring it this series :)

  5. Guest 5 years ago

    I mean, his career numbers suck b/c he spent a few years before his breakout season just sucking in general. I don’t even think that line away from Arlington is bad for this year…I’m sure a lot of teams would want a right fielder with a good glove, explosive power and an .800 OPS. Including your Braves (maybe not a rightfielder specifically, but another outfielder for sure)

    And it’s nice to see a Yankees fan who doesn’t sound like a complete you-know-what. I was beginning to wonder if you guys existed haha. Having that said…bring it this series :)

  6. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    boomshwa are you smoking crack? the years following his breakout season have been in a steep decline.

    2008 (breakout) .310/.412/.586 that’s in a whopping 115 ab’s

    since

    2009 .232/.300/.478 778 ops
    2010 .267/.324/.500 804 ops

  7. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    boomshwa are you smoking crack? the years following his breakout season have been in a steep decline.

    2008 (breakout) .310/.412/.586 that’s in a whopping 115 ab’s

    since

    2009 .232/.300/.478 778 ops
    2010 .267/.324/.500 804 ops

  8. Guest 5 years ago

    So, are you saying he’s a bad player b/c he can’t maintain a .998 OPS on the road? Joe Mauer’s OPS dropped like 200 points from last year by moving to a new park, does that mean you think he’s a bad hitter as well?

    You said it yourself, that’s 112 ab’s of production. If you evaluate his two full seasons as a starter (which granted, are probably his most accruate figures), you see a guy who actually IMPROVED his production and posted a respectable .804 OPS this year w/ 9 of his 22 home runs. And those home run totals are probably low, b/c he missed a lot of time this year w/ groin pulls (which are a hard injury to bounce back from in-season).

    I’m not saying the man is Albert Pujols, but he’s certainly a good hitter both on the road and at the Ballpark at Arlington. So no, I’m not on crack. Why don’t you hold off on stupid comments like that from now on

  9. OMG…could you imagine Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz in the same outfield together? The CF would have to cover from foul line to foul line because those two are the most inept outfielders I have ever seen. Cruz is a one-man wrecking crew on the Rangers – both offensively and defensively – a true butcher with the glove.

    • Guest 5 years ago

      Are you referring to the same Nelson Cruz who posted a 12.4 UZR/150 combined b/w RF and LF this year? He’s a well above average outfielder

  10. AceGunderson 5 years ago

    I remember thinking Nelson Cruz was the prototypical AAAA player circa 2007…it’s no wonder I’m not getting any MLB scouting job offers.

  11. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    boomshwa are you saying that a player with a sub 800 ops on the road is a good player so be it. I’m taking that your a rangers fan and I get it. But to be honest I’m not the only guy who thinks this that’s why he organization have dealt him and why other teams haven’t offered a lot for him when the rangers had him on the block. Last season Scott Podsednik had a 724 ops very comparable to Cruzs road numbers enough said, if you want a outfield full of Scott Podsednik go for it.

  12. BravesFan500 5 years ago

    Boomshwa would you classify a guy with a line of .249/.312/.489 with a 801 ops a very good player or a AVG player. I would say its a very avg player….that’s what he has avg’d away from the launching pad in Arlington.

  13. Guest 5 years ago

    How is Scott Podsednik’s .724 OPS comparable to Nellie Cruz’s .801 on the road? Let alone his total OPS…which without looking is around .950, I believe. Cruz is also a borderline gold glover in the outfield…Pods is not.

    Nelson Cruz was a 5.1 WAR player this year. Scott Podsednik was a 0.4 WAR player. Saying arguement dead was a little harsh of me…but seriously, I don’t see how they are equals

  14. Guest 5 years ago

    How is Scott Podsednik’s .724 OPS comparable to Nellie Cruz’s .801 on the road? Let alone his total OPS…which without looking is around .950, I believe. Cruz is also a borderline gold glover in the outfield…Pods is not.

    Nelson Cruz was a 5.1 WAR player this year. Scott Podsednik was a 0.4 WAR player. Saying arguement dead was a little harsh of me…but seriously, I don’t see how they are equals

  15. ninjadude554 5 years ago

    Nelson Cruz has great hitting and fielding, he is a great player, and anybody who says differently does not know anything about baseball

    • AceGunderson 5 years ago

      It’s obvious you’re passionate about your stance, but I do consider myself to know something about baseball, and I wouldn’t call Nelson Cruz a “great” player. The Rangers do have 4 or 5 great players, but Cruz I put a notch below. He’s good or even very good…but let’s not go overboard. Also, a little off topic here…but durability has to hinder his value, no?

      • Guest 5 years ago

        Yea, he has been a bit injury prone so far. In his defense, his main injury this year was groin pulls, which are hard to bounce back from in-season. But you’re right, he needs to prove he can post a full, injury free year. As for being a great player, he did have a WAR of 5.1 this year…so I would think he’s a pretty valuable player. But taking my bias out of it, I do agree that he probably shouldn’t be considered a truly “great” player yet

        I’ll say this for him though, he raked when he was healthy this year. And I think he’s better than a lot of people realize. He was red hot in the last series against the Rays. I think if the Yankees were wise, they would gear their gameplans more to stop him in this series than anyone else, including Hamilton. Otherwise, I think he’ll surprise some people at how good he can be

    • AceGunderson 5 years ago

      It’s obvious you’re passionate about your stance, but I do consider myself to know something about baseball, and I wouldn’t call Nelson Cruz a “great” player. The Rangers do have 4 or 5 great players, but Cruz I put a notch below. He’s good or even very good…but let’s not go overboard. Also, a little off topic here…but durability has to hinder his value, no?

  16. ninjadude554 5 years ago

    Nelson Cruz has great hitting and fielding, he is a great player, and anybody who says differently does not know anything about baseball

  17. AceGunderson 5 years ago

    Same here. Even though I’m a Yanks fan (I always have to put that qualifier, haha), I hope Cliff Lee resigns with the Rangers. Not because I don’t think he’s the best SP in baseball…but because it’s good for baseball to have a new legit year-to-year contender, complete with a variety of homegrown guys, FAs, veterans, and young guys. I really like what they’ve done and are doing in Texas…just hoping it falls apart for a couple weeks here in October though. 😉

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