Monday, February 24, 2014

Josh Willingham and Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz's venture into free agency
wasn't as lucrative as he expected.
Earlier this month I cited Nelson Cruz's free agency travails in discussing why the trade market for Josh Willingham might be limited this summer.

At that point, Cruz was still on the market. Last week, Cruz signed a one-year deal, worth (depending on bonuses) between $8 million and $9 million, with the Baltimore Orioles. Cruz had at the start of the free agent season rejected Texas' qualifying offer of $14.1 million for one year, but he clearly overestimated his appeal to the market.

Now, Willingham and Cruz aren't perfect matches. Cruz is two years younger. His home run production has been more consistent than Willingham's. Cruz has also spent his career in much more hitter-friendly home parks than Willingham has; Willingham draws more walks and thus has a higher on-base percentage, and, of course, Cruz served a 50-game suspension last year because of his involvement in the Biogensis PED scandal.

Still, the two have a similar skill set: Slow right-handed sluggers with little defensive value.

Willingham is to get $7 million this year. The Orioles are not only paying Cruz more than that, they surrendered their second-round draft pick when they signed him. (It would have been their first-rounder, but they gave that up earlier when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez.)

I don't know what the Twins would be offered if they tried to shop the Hammer around right now. I rather doubt it would be the equivalent of a second-round pick. (In baseball, of course, there is no trading of draft picks.)

But from here, Willingham looks like the better player, and certainly the better contract.

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