The Yankees went into last winter with a publicly stated goal of keeping their payroll below $189 million. They came out of it having committed more than $400 million for four new players. This winter, there are no such payroll limitations, at least to our knowledge, but there is still plenty of need. And since there is nothing more fun than playing with another guy's cash, we at ESPN New York will once again aid the Yankees' decision-makers with a little game we like to call "Spend Hal's Money."
Today's candidate: Nelson Cruz
Age: 35 in July
2014 numbers: $8 million salary, .271-40-108, .333 OBP, .859 OPS, 4.7 WAR
Pros: A badly needed power bat and proven run producer who also has an impressive postseason résumé, Cruz was an absolute monster in the 2011 ALCS for the Texas Rangers, hitting six home runs and driving in 13 runs in six games to be named the series MVP. He has a career .292 batting average, 16 home runs and a 1.016 OPS in October, roughly comparable to Carlos Beltran, who was signed last winter in part because of his postseason performances. Primarily a designated hitter, Cruz can also play one of the corner outfield positions, for which the Yankees could have a need if they can't keep Beltran on the field in 2015.
Cons: Age (he will turn 35 before the All-Star break), cost (he refused the Rangers' qualifying offer last winter with disastrous results, having to settle for the Biogenesis discount price of $8 million, but the Yankees will have no such luck this year), and the generally puzzling nature of his 2014 season, in which he posted career highs in home runs (40) and RBIs (108) after averaging 27 and 81 for the previous five years. Was 2014 an anomaly or the new norm for Cruz, who is at an age at which offensive production can be expected to decline? He also strikes out a lot; his 140 K's last season would have led the Yankees.
And if they're going to sign another "old guy," wouldn't the Yankees be wiser to invest in one who can play a position at which they might really need a backup, such as first or third base? And by the way, Cruz isn't a very good outfielder when he does get to play there. One more thing: He's a right-handed hitter, and, in case you've forgotten, the Yankee Stadium fences are lefty-friendly.
The verdict: Pass. Cruz is a tempting player, but if the Yankees are going to take another risk on a 35-plus player, I would go with Victor Martinez (see last Thursday's post), a better all-around hitter who can at least back up Mark Teixeira at first.