Yesterday at the Winter Meetings here in Las Vegas, I sat down with Nelson Cruz’s agent Bryce Dixon for an interview.
How are you positioning Nelson Cruz in this market when you talk to GMs?
He’ll be the straw that stirs in the drink in the middle of the lineup for you. He changes the entire lineup. When he’s in the middle there, the pitcher has to pitch completely differently and he’s the finishing piece that you know is going to go out there and give you exactly the production that you see on the back of the baseball card that you see every single year.
And when he gets into the playoffs, he’s already proven that the bigger the moment, the bigger he shines. You start to look back to some of the bombs he hit in the playoffs for Texas and you know he is a big-time player and he is burning to get back into the playoffs. He thought that the Mariners were going to do it this year. Obviously they fell short, and he was disappointed at that. Clearly he thought they had unfinished business, but the Mariners are going in a different direction so he’ll have to do it with another team.
He’s the guy that you plug in every single day in the middle of the lineup and rakes. Apart from that, he’s also a very good influence on the younger players, teaching them not only secrets of hitting, but how to conduct themselves on and off the field. He’s not a guy who is very vocal in the clubhouse. He’s not going to get up and start yelling at guys, but he’s definitely a one-on-one, lead-by-example guy, who’s going to take the younger guys and say, “If you want to be successful for as long as I’ve been successful, here’s how you do it.” That’s kind of how he leads because he’s definitely not a “ra ra” guy, but he’s always working hard, always having fun, and that rubs off on the younger guys for sure.
You mentioned a finishing piece. How important is it for Cruz to play for a contending team in 2019?
It’s important and I think where he’s at in his career, if you’re not a contender, you don’t really have a need for a Nelson Cruz. So the teams that are in on him want to win. He clearly wants to win and would love to get back to the playoffs and the World Series. He’s got unfinished business as far as that’s concerned. So yes, it’s of utmost importance, he wants to go back to the playoffs. Wherever he signs will be a team that has got designs on making the playoffs.
The general assumption is that National League teams can’t be in the mix for Cruz. Would you agree with that?
National League teams could be in the mix. He would love to play the field, but the last few years the Mariners have wanted him to exclusively DH. They had a ton of quality, quality outfielders so he didn’t play the field unless it was an NL park. Down the stretch he told the Mariners, end of August, September, “Start playing me more when we play the NL teams because we need to win these games and I know I can help out.” He did well there. He’ll do whatever the team wants, so if an NL team wants to put him in the field, he has no problem with that. Obviously he’s been DH, so the majority of the teams that are after him are American League teams.
If you’re looking at AL contenders with DH openings it looks like there are 4-5 suitors, and that feels a lot different than shopping around a reliever who might make sense for 20 teams. Have GMs been trying to leverage that against you?
Even though you’re clearly in a smaller universe because of who he is and which teams would have that need, they haven’t because there are enough teams that they don’t want to come in and lowball and try to act like there’s nowhere else for him to go. All 30 teams aren’t in like they would be on a middle reliever type, maybe, but there are numerous teams in so there’s enough to push his market where it needs to go. If there was only one or two, then maybe it would be a different answer. But there’s numerous, so he’s fine where he’s at.
In general when you have a free agent, how is it that you decide that you’ve got that last dollar or that the bidding has stopped?
There’s no perfect answer but you can sense from the team’s side, the tonal change, and it’s a feeling that you get. “OK, we’re at a point that we need to make a decision.” You have to try to read the future as much as possible. And think, if we don’t pull the trigger now, can this market collapse, or are we going to be fine waiting longer? It’s the totality of the circumstances. You’re looking at what happens with other players with other teams. Teams nowadays especially with trades, you’re kind of mixing them all together and coming up with the feeling, “OK, now is go time.”