Oct 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) at bat in game five of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Reds were never really in play to sign Baltimore Orioles free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, and he probably wouldn’t have been a good fit for the team anyway. Nevertheless, the contract that Cruz reportedly has in place with the Seattle Mariners, first reported at El Caribe, further highlights the Reds’ inactivity this off-season and makes it that much more unlikely that Cincinnati can procure the bat and outfield help that they need in order to be competitive in 2015.
More from Cincinnati Reds
- Johnny Cueto Trade: Reds Winners?
- Reds Recap: Win to Start the 2nd Half
- Does MLB Enslave Pete Rose?
- ICYMI: MLB All Star Weekend
- Reds Recap: Brewers’ Fireworks
It seems that every team is looking for right-handed hitting, especially right-handed power hitting, and Cruz is at the top of that heap by definition after having led all of MLB with 40 home runs in 2014. Regardless of whether you think he is too old (34) or too expensive (four years, $57 million), the fact that Cruz is now out of play will affect all other parts of the hitting market this winter.
The Mariners will be less of a player now, true, but Cruz’s departure probably just woke up a sleeping giant in Baltimore, especially since it seems that Nick Markakis is not a sure bet to return to the Orioles. With a couple of gaping holes in their lineup ,the Os can’t be counted out for any of the remaining available hitters, including Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Chase Headley, Torri Hunter and Marlon Byrd. Heck, maybe even the Reds’ own Jay Bruce will find his way to Baltimore.
Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, in whom the Reds supposedly have interest? The Orioles might be sniffing around at that level of player, too.
By sitting by and watching while bat after bat comes off the market, the Reds and general manager Walt Jocketty have made it that much more unlikely that they will be able land a player who can make an impact for the team in 2015. The Reds probably were never going to sign Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval, or trade for Josh Donaldson, but now that those players are unavailable, competition for the guys that the Reds might pursue is tougher than ever.
All hope is not yet lost for the Reds this off-season, and the Winter Meetings start on Sunday, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Jocketty to kick around ideas in San Diego. If he doesn’t act soon, though, the shelves will be bare.
In the end, that might not be so bad, because then the Reds could hand the left field job to Jesse Winker and let the rebuilding begin.
Nah … that won’t happen.