An argument for signing Nelson Cruz

Nelson CruzMost of the media coverage is on the Mets and Stephen Drew.  This makes sense as Drew plays shortstop and the only team with a major need at short are the Mets.  Now, the Mets could still sign Drew and I’ve no doubt that he’d be a better player than Ruben Tejada, but his impact on the lineup isn’t earth shattering.

If Drew came to the Mets he’d be playing shortstop and, likely, leading off.  He’d give the Mets a much better hitter than Tejada and probably buy the Mets 2-5 wins on the season.  That’s really nice… but it isn’t worth the kind of money that Drew still wants.

Conversely, the Mets could still add a player to the middle of their lineup who would add protection to Curtis Granderson and David Wright while taking pressure off of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.  His name is Nelson Cruz and his market has been pretty silent.

Before the offseason I wrote about Cruz and I was not in favor of signing him.  The Mets could not add Cruz as their “big-ticket” outfielder and expect him to flourish in queens like he did in Texas.  That’s still true.  Granderson’s power will take a hit but he should still be most of the hitter he was.  Cruz in Citi Field is more of a twenty home run hitter.  That production is still a whole lot better than Juan Lagares’ will be.  You can also bat Lagares fifth in the Met lineup.

How much will he cost?  At least a third round pick.

The Mets are showing reluctance to give up that pick for Drew and I can totally understand that.  Drew’s not the difference between winning and losing in 2014.  Cruz might be.

If the Mets can afford to sign Nelson Cruz for under three (guaranteed) years they should.  Frankly, they should sign both Drew and Cruz.

64 comments for “An argument for signing Nelson Cruz

  1. Stephen Guilbert
    February 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Haha this seems like an appropriate counter article to the one I wrote two days ago. I can’t help but disagree with you on, well, everything. I like the thought of adding a true #5 hitter to the lineup. The impact it would have on the offensive production of this team is just about as important as any other addition you could make. The thing is, Nelson Cruz just is not that hitter.

    20 homers, sure. But Chris Young can give you that (he has). Again, I’ll just remind you/readers: Nelson Cruz’s line away from Arlington: .242/.299/.435/.734. Is that really all that better than Juan Lagares will be? Not to mention the defense, speed, cost, etc. He’ll be 34, costs a draft pick and a whole lot of money. These are the contracts we really need to avoid. Nelson Cruz doesn’t even start in my outfield.

    Sorry but Nelson Cruz is not the answer.

    • David Groveman
      February 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      That OPS is at least 200 points higher than I predict Juan Lagares will have. You are looking at a kid who can field, but also one who will top out at five homeruns and 10 stolen bases.

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm

        So? He’s still leagues better than Cruz is, overall. Lagares’ fWAR last year was 2.9. Cruz’s has been half of that each of the last three years, is moving out of a park that vastly helps sustain that mediocre fWAR, and is turning 34. Lagares is ten years younger, 1/20 the cost, and has a ceiling to improve.

        • David Groveman
          February 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          I see Lagares’ offensive output to decline in year two. I predict a low .200 BA and an OPS in the .500s.

          I see Cruz’s 2014 being better than his 2013.

          If Lagares grows into someone who can start in the majors, I will be surprised.

          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

            But what are you basing this on? As you say, Cruz’s strength is his power. His power has declined each year he has been in the league. You say that Lagares is going to be worse last year despite his upper minors numbers being FAR superior to what he showed in 3/4 of a season last year. You fail to acknowledge that one player is young and has a ceiling and the other is declining and leaving a home ball park that helped him out offensively.

            So again…what are you basing this on?

            • David Groveman
              February 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm

              Lagares: The defense is great and was a happy surprise. His OPS in 2013 was .633 and powered by 68 July at bats. His June and August were okay but still below Cruz’s impact. Add to this a lack of plate recognition and I see MLB pitching abusing him out of Queens by June if he starts 2014.

              Cruz: A career .823 OPS is aided by his ballpark. That .739 LgOPS isn’t nothing and is significantly higher than the OPS of a player who has negligible power and limited impact speed. Lagares is younger, but will never be the hitter that Cruz can still be in 2014.

              • Stephen Guilbert
                February 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

                I agree with you that Nelson Cruz would create more runs with just his bat than Juan Lagares.

                It is a very difficult point to make that Juan Lagares would be less valuable overall. Very difficult. Let’s consider the following:

                Nelson Cruz, with an average of 116, 106, and 122 wRC+ over the past three years was worth 1.3, 1.1, and 1.5 WAR over those years.

                Juan Lagares, in 3/4 of a season with a paltry 75 wRC+ was worth 2.9 WAR last year.

                This also is with Nelson Cruz in a ball park that vastly improves his offensive numbers. His Away wRC+ for his career is 95, or 5% below average. That includes all of his awesome seasons 4-6 years ago. So you can bump Cruz’s WAR to around 0.0, or replacement level. That’s what he is.

                Juan Lagares, even with somehow even worse offense and defensive regression, will be worth 2.0 WAR (I’m subtracting a win from his offense and keeping his defense the same because he’ll have a full season to save more runs).

                • David Groveman
                  February 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm

                  I don’t think you see the same number of people testing Lagares to generate those saved runs. That, in itself, is a feather in his cap as he’s a great defensive player.

                • Jerry Grote
                  February 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

                  Nearly all of Lagares’ ability in regards to WAR results from defensive ability. Of all the stats, you do realize that this is the most non-repeatable skill … right?

                  So either you know this and you ignore it, or you acknowledge ignorance.

                  On top of this, Lagares best ability was enhanced by being flanked by players with little ability to field. Think I’m wrong? Guestimate Byrd’s defensive numbers when he’s not having his a$$ covered by Lagares or McCutcheon.

                  Lagares, playing next to two other CFers, will get to about 30% less of the balls he did last year.

                  Regarding Cruz and home/away? One of the most overstated statistical commentaries that can be made. No correlation to future performance; none.

                  End of the day, Cruz’ inability to field gets marginalized by playing next to a superior CFer. His HR production isn’t that of a 20HR guy, it’s more like 34 – normalizing his production out to a 162 game season over the last three years.

                  And giving up a 3rd round pick? Get serious. It’s meaningless. Dollars? What are waiting around for?

                  I’m guessing that Nelson Cruz hits roughly 55, possibly 60 HR in the next two seasons and someone pays him $30MM for that luxury.

                  I am one of the most unabashed pluggers of Juan Lagares on this site, and for this particular franchise, for the next two years, Cruz is a better fit than Lagares.

              • Stephen Guilbert
                February 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

                Also, let’s consider your claim that Juan Lagares will OPS 200 points fewer than the .734 Cruz gives us away from Texas. That would be .534. Here are Lagares’ OPS numbers by year in the minors (and last year):

                2006- .751
                2007- .579
                2008- .635
                2009- .620
                2010- .710
                2011- .883
                2012- .723
                2013 (minors)- .929
                2013 (majors)- .633

                He average .729 in the minors for his career. Remarkably similar to your number for Cruz.

                Let’s also consider the following:

                – His lowest single season OPS is still above your projection for Lagares’ 2014. That year, he was an 18-year-old in Savannah. That’s really young. Any idea how many player we had in Savannah at age 18 last year? Zero.

                – His highest in Vegas is league-aided. So let’s throw the top and the bottom out. I see his range somewhere between .600 and .750. That’s a good range for Lagares and with the defense, that will make him a starting center fielder in the majors for years.

                – Three times in the minors, Lagares stole 18 bases or more.

                – I also really see improvement in this numbers over time, don’t you? If I were a betting man, I’d wager that Lagares still has projection left.

                In conclusion, I agree with your statement that Cruz is a better hitter. He is. He hits for much more power and gets on base more. He is not a more valuable player. If the Mets still had a hole in the outfield, I’d take him on a short and cheap deal (that he probably wouldn’t take) and no more. He’s just not anything more than a replacement player at this point in his career. Nothing indicates the contrary.

                • Stephen Guilbert
                  February 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

                  Sorry, you said .739. Not .734.

                • Jerry Grote
                  February 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm

                  Minor league numbers are meaningless, and the further back you go the less you can project.

                  Brett Wallace is the latest example; a guy the Cards foolishly traded away for Matt Holliday.

                  I am less concerned about what Lagares did in 2010 against players that will pay to enter a major league stadium, and more concerned with his dreadful 2013 at bat.

  2. eraff
    February 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Nelson Cruz is an “all bat” who’s bat is not “all that”. His career OPS is about .730, away from Texas home field. If I’m going “bat only” at Citi, I’ll prefer a Lefty.

    The rest of his game is hollow….no speed, gloves or added value. He’s experienced some durability problems—probably the “hint” for him to get “chemical helpers”….that would hint at a lack of projection.

    A middle 700’ish ops in a large home ballpark…with no other tools—that is truly a “platoon project-able” level of performance with the bat, and a likely big upograde in every other facet of the game from your platoon.

    • David Groveman
      February 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      We are assuming that he’d still get a big contract. I’ll remind you that he’s still a free agent and will probably accept less money at this point

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm

        David, it doesn’t matter. He literally makes the team worse if you play him. I have strong evidence to support this. If you have a counter argument that shows some proof that he improves on what we have, please share it with us. The only claim you make above is that “Drew’s not the difference between winning and losing in 2014. Cruz might be.” What are you basing this on? It sure isn’t any statistical analysis so could you offer more to your argument? It might help us along in this discussion.

        • David Groveman
          February 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm

          There isn’t really a point in arguing a point with someone who has a strong starting point like you do.

          When I look at Cruz’s stats I see a 5th hitter who can start in right. You see something else.

          I didn’t read your article… I’m sure it was grand.


          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm

            Well, he’s not a 5th hitter. Like eraff said, Cruz out of Arlington in his mid/late 30s is a platoon player. I’d take Cruz as a bench bat or platoon option. I’m not giving up a draft pick or meeting his contract for that. He’s certainly not the difference between us winning and losing in 2014, as you say.

            You should read my article. There is evidence in there that not only is Cruz not worth his contract, but that he’s not even a good hitter outside of Arlington. And hit is all he does. All of our other outfielders have at least a second tool. You’ve made a claim in this article that other people I respect also seem to think. It has no evidence to support it…or at least none that I can see. Since neither you nor anyone else is offering me any, I’m going to conclude that it’s just conjecture. Which is fine, but I’ll stick with my evidence-supported thesis.

            • Jerry Grote
              February 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm

              Nelson Cruz is in his mid to late 30s?

              He starts 2014 at 33, and a two year contract takes him all the way to his age 34 season.

              Hardly “late 30s”.

              Talk about false statements.

              • Stephen Guilbert
                February 19, 2014 at 6:03 pm

                Point me to the exact point where I alluded to a two-year contract. Nelson Cruz has been asking for five.

              • Stephen Guilbert
                February 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

                And a player born in the summer of 1980 will be 35 in the fall of 2015, for the record. 2015 minus 1980 is 35. Not 34. 35.

                • Captain America
                  February 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

                  Pillow contract = 1 year

                  You in or out

  3. Raff
    February 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    David- Flippant condescension doesn’t make for very good debate/discussion. We all have “strong viewpoints’– That’s why we are here. Mr. Guilbert’s challenge that you back up your assertions with some statistical evidence, I think, is fairly stated and “fair-game” in this forum. Is it not? I enjoyed your article, and it started a nice discussion and back n forth debate. Why nip your success in the bud by “back-handing” a guy who is obviously enjoying taking you up with debate points and engaging in interesting discussion about your article?

    • David Groveman
      February 17, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Mr. Guilbert’s tone became pompous and insulting.

      Perhaps that was not intended, but I didn’t see a reason to argue with someone who is going to take pot-shots at my analysis and intuition.

      I’ve identified why I’m so low on Lagares at this point and why I’m high enough on Cruz to want him on the roster.

      I’ve said before that I’d like to have Lagares prove me wrong, but I can’t see him being more than a .230 hitter.

      Cruz might not be great, but a .739 OPS is better than anything we’ve got, as would 20 home runs. I’m not suggesting giving him Granderson money or a long contract, I’m suggesting that he improves the Mets in 2014.

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        I apologize if you found my tone pompous and insulting. It was not written as such. I’m trying to understand where your analysis is coming from. I have yet to hear a sound argument from anyone–including the Francesas and Cerrones of the world–to why Cruz is anything better than what we have.

        “Cruz might not be great, but a .739 OPS is better than anything we’ve got”. Actually, we do have a player like that. He, too, is slow, bad in the outfield, but the difference is he’s already on the team and 1/10 of the price of Cruz. His career OPS is .766 (a good deal greater than .739 but we’ll let it go) and his name is Lucas Duda.

        • eraff
          February 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm


        • eraff
          February 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

          David– I’m not sure whether you write the headline for the articles you post— your headline references ” An Argument for…..”…. You do not make a substantial argument “for” Nelson Cruz, other than your gut feeling. You do make an argument “against” Stephen Drew— I guess in an either/or environment, the argument might be to use 10 million dollars on one guy versus the other…. so…maybe that is an argument “for” Nelson Cruz.

          The further exchanges do not substantiate your support of Cruz, but rather your dissatisfaction with Lagares… you so devalue Lagares in your projection that he would not be an actual alternative. I do believe you are spot-on with your point about his defensive measureables retreating because people won’t challenge his arm…he will remain just as good a defensive player without the assists.

          Think about that…and the bogus nature of defensive stats…. Cruz will get no credit for assists because he will not throw out many runners—and many of those runners will score. Lagares may not get credit for throwing out runners who have chosen to avoid the risk of his defensive abilities—they “will not score”—– and not an ounce of credit for the prevention!!!…and which guy is impacting the game with his glove?…stats be damned—trust your eyes!!!

          I do not like him with his bat…. his swing is flat,,,he’s not all that
          I do not like him at first base….his left filed play is quite a waste
          I do like him running round, I do not like him sitting Down
          I do not like him with a Glove… His play on D I do not love
          I hate to settle, I hate to lose…I do not like this Nelson Cruz.

          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

            That’s a good point about his defense and, unfortunately, that won’t be measured in his defensive metrics, and I’m sure a bunch of fans will point to him not being as good as 2013, but we’ll know better.

            Look, even if his UZR/rangeR, armR are overvalued from sample error and he regresses, he’s still a valuable player. And if you project defensive regression, can’t you also predict offensive regression for the positive?

            Fact of the matter is, he’s 25, showed a ton of promise last year, and deserves every chance to play 162 games (or a few shy for rest) in 2014. If he just isn’t good enough, we’ll know, but he deserves this chance. Signing an old, slow, bad player for a lot of money and a draft pick is just not a good idea.

      • February 17, 2014 at 10:46 pm

        Dave. Where would you play Cruz? Perhaps giving him an incentive laden contract would benefit both Cruz and the Mets. If he plays well you can always move him at the trading deadline. It’s to his benefit to show teams that the PED’s are behind him and he can still be of value to a team for 2015.

        • David Groveman
          February 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          I play him in right and don’t play Lagares as a starter

  4. eraff
    February 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    David—you believe Lagares OPS will be 200 points lower than the “.734” of Cruz…. .534!!…do I have that correct?

    At .534, Lagares would not be the 3rd man in the outfield instead of “anyone”!!—he would not play with or without Cruz… “Joe Schlabotnick” would be the next guy in line. So, your projection of Lagares 534 to Cruz is actually a False Choice.

    I would choose o compare a .734 “bat only” rh hitter to virtually “any other available platoon option”.

    I understand hopes and dreams….even Nelson Cruz wishes he was “that bat”

  5. Stephen Guilbert
    February 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Plus, we keep putting Juan Lagares, a player who is 25 years old and has 121 major league games to his name, under the microscope and predicting a defensive regression, but we’re ignoring the same statistical variability that suggests his poor offensive production could be the same error in sample size. Why are we predicting that a player who is young, has consistently improved throughout the minors, and demonstrated impressive athleticism, is going to get worse? That…doesn’t make sense.

    And yet we ignore some more known factors about Cruz…a player who we DO have plenty of statistical evidence for, who is 34, and has a steady decline. We know that Cruz is going to get worse as he gets older and as he leaves Arlington.

    So one player has a ceiling, projection, and potential growth.

    The other doesn’t and is likely going to get worse. Why are we ignoring the latter and highlighting the former? Let’s at least be consistent. Lagares is just as likely to break out offensively as he is regress defensively, from a pure statistical variation standpoint. Can’t ignore that.

  6. Raff
    February 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t know either of you- So, my observation is based only on what I have seen written in this space. I’m just interested in sharing points of view and engaging in some debate. I think that’s in good keeping with baseball tradition. PS: I did search out Mr. Guilbert’s article about 10 minutes ago, and I did find some interesting research to back his thesis. Truthfully- I’m also fine with non-stats based opinion/conjecture–Aka- “Going with your gut” on some things. Am I correct that this is the basis of your statement that Lagares will be a “500’s” OPS guy? Otherwise- Do you have any revealing stats/trends/evidence to support your statement?

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Raff, I don’t mind hearing the opinions of fans when it comes to their “gut feelings” about certain players. It’s interesting. It doesn’t hold weight with me, but it’s always something I enjoy reading and hearing about–especially when someone’s right about a player when no one else is. I think David has a good article that does just that, but I was interested in hearing if he has any basis to support it. It could be a swing analysis, video tape, statistical analysis, positive coach or player opinion..anything like that. All I’ve heard about Cruz is that “he makes the lineup better” and nothing to back that up. In my research, this is a false statement. I was curious if David had some information I’d overlooked. I do not mean to get in a shouting match over this. I’m honestly curious if I’ve overlooked something–anything–that would make a pro-Cruz argument make even a little bit of sense.

      I also agree about Lagares. If he’s OPSing .500 something, Eric Young is the guy. Even if we had Cruz, I think Eric Young Jr. would be the preferred choice over him unless you do a platoon with Chris Young or something like that…and is that how we want to spend 10 million and a draft pick in a deep draft class? Don’t think so.

  7. Raff
    February 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Speaking about “feel” Conjecture, and What, “going with your gut”, What else can explain the Red Sox handing Victorino $40mil for 3 years, given his most recent history, and “winning-big” on that bet?

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Victorino pre-Boston never had a WAR below 2.5 in his career and is one of the most underrated outfielders of his era, so I see why a statics-heavy Boston front office would like that guy.

      A contract I thought was awful that I was dead wrong about was Anibal Sanchez. I understood the trade to put the Tigers over the top but I thought that sort of money for nothing better than a #3 starter was ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s a gut thing or not but they clearly had a feeling or saw something in Sanchez I didn’t because last year he was a true #1 starter. One of the best in baseball. He’s as wrong as I’ve ever been about a player (short term). Another player I was dead wrong about was Dillon Gee. I’ve followed him since he was drafted and never thought he’d make the majors. Man was I off on that one.

  8. Raff
    February 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I understand. FYI— there’s a Raff her & an eraff (brothers)… I usually capitalize all letters of mine (raff) to differentiate from his (eraff), but this violates messaging policy on this board. Sorry to confuse. I’m really enjoying the exchange from everyone. tnx.

  9. Raff
    February 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I understand. FYI— there’s a Raff here & an eraff (brothers)… I usually capitalize all letters of mine (raff) to differentiate from his (eraff), but this violates messaging policy on this board. Sorry to confuse. I’m really enjoying the exchange from everyone. tnx.

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Oh wow I didn’t even notice haha. That’s cool though. If you guys have a good idea for an article, let me know.

  10. eraff
    February 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I do not like him with his bat… his swing is flat,,,he’s not all that
    I do not like him at first base…his left filed play is quite a waste
    I do like him running round, I do not like him sitting Down
    I do not like him with a Glove… His play on D I do not love
    I hate to settle, I hate to lose…I do not like this Nelson Cruz.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      February 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Very awesome!

    • David Groveman
      February 19, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Well done!

  11. Stephen Guilbert
    February 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    I think I found a good player comparison if you consider Cruz’s away numbers plus poor defense and speed.

    Dayan Viciedo 2013: .265/.304/.426/.730/-12 (defense)
    Nelson Cruz away splits: .242/.299/.435/.734/-9.7

    Dayan’s WAR in 2013 was -0.1. He was, essentially, the definition of a replacement level player. So that’s what we should expect from Cruz next year: 0 WAR. At that point, if we’re that desperate for an outfielder, I’d rather give Cesar Puello a shot. Or Lawley.

  12. Stephen Guilbert
    February 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Jerry Grote,

    “Nearly all of Lagares’ ability in regards to WAR results from defensive ability. Of all the stats, you do realize that this is the most non-repeatable skill … right?” – This is a false statement.

    “Lagares best ability was enhanced by being flanked by players with little ability to field” – This is a false statement.

    “Lagares, playing next to two other CFers, will get to about 30% less of the balls he did last year.” – This is a derived statement supported by nothing.

    “Regarding Cruz and home/away? One of the most overstated statistical commentaries that can be made. No correlation to future performance; none.” – This is a false statement.

    “End of the day, Cruz’ inability to field gets marginalized by playing next to a superior CFer” – This is a false statement.

    “His HR production isn’t that of a 20HR guy, it’s more like 34 – normalizing his production out to a 162 game season over the last three years.” – This is a statistically and theoretically false statement.

    “And giving up a 3rd round pick? Get serious. It’s meaningless.” – This is a false statement.

    “for the next two years, Cruz is a better fit than Lagares.” – This is a derived statement supported by nothing. Conjecture. Unlikely.

    • David Groveman
      February 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Consider your tone when responding to people. I think Jerry made good points and, at the end of the day, we will likely never know. Hope you are right about Lagares’ development. I am pretty sure you are wrong on both he and Cruz.

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm


        Again please check the sensitivity-driven patronization at the door. This is a rational discourse about baseball. No one has insulted anyone else here. No one (except for you) have brought flippancy, sarcasm, or patronization to the discussion. You cannot bring that to an adult conversation about baseball when you’re a writer for a website that covers, largely, opinions about baseball.

        Saying something is not true is not poor tone.

        • David Groveman
          February 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

          I respect your attachment to my article and I hope you continue to read what I post.

    • Raff
      February 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      This conversation has somehow morphed into a comparison of the merits of Nelson Cruz versus Juan Lagares- And that’s really not the issue. Lagares is a “prospect” to fill the position of CF- Period. Nelson Cruz is a corner outfielder- Period. The real issues: 1) If you’re surrendering a 3rd round pick for Cruz (or anyone else), you’re making a commitment to Cruz for at least 2-3 years. 2) Doing so, by definition, gives you an OF of Cruz, Granderson, and Chris Young. 3)Chris Young is “gone” next year, if he has a good year, because an outfield costing $15mm in RF (Grandy), $13-14mm in LF(Cruz, and another player in CF who will be needed in 2015, likely costing another draft pick, is really not in the cards for the Mets. The Mets need to solve the CF position, long term. Picking up Cruz, or anyone else, is going to necessitate surrendering additional draft picks down the line, as the Mets address their long term “outfield package”. So, with respect to all the opinions, conjecture, and advanced-statistics comparisons, I think the Met’s outfield “situation”, personnel-wise, is settled. Let’s hope some young players, including Lagares, get into the mix and push themselves onto the starting card.

      • Jerry Grote
        February 19, 2014 at 5:37 pm

        Hmmm. Not so fast.

        This coaching staff has already chosen to play Lagares in RF, over another defensive CF. This offseason, no less than Sandy Alderson suggested that Young would be given every opportunity to play CF.

        Which by definition means that Mets are truly considering playing Juan Lagares and his 650 OPS in RF. If you would put Matt DenDekker in CF over Lagares, why would you think for a second that you wouldn’t play Chris Young there?

        And so, in fact, you are considering Lagares directly against a corner OFer.

        • David Groveman
          February 19, 2014 at 6:03 pm

          I would be shocked to see his OPS that high.

    • Jerry Grote
      February 19, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      I find it surprising that someone pressing David for evidence of what he says, that you failed to give the same respect to a different poster.

      Regarding Cruz and 34 HR? Statistically proven, bbref, using the last three years and extrapolated.

      Regarding Lagares and fielding ability? Shown, several times, by none other than Brian Joura. No player has really been able to replicate extreme success in fielding in successive years.

      Regarding a third round pick? Again, Brian Joura – and others – have shown that a third round pick is relatively meaningless. But don’t take our word for it; the Mets FO has said that draft picks are wildly overvalued today.

      Regarding home/away? Prove I’m wrong. Or better yet, show anyone here how you are right; that we can in some way derive Cruz’s production in succeeding years by his away stats.

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm

        Jerry no offense but there’s so much to disprove in your post that it’s going to take a while. I’ll address one point at a time.

        1.) Defense is the least repeatable skill in baseball:

        Truth: Defense is a repeatable skill. Defense is influenced but does not rely on luck. This isn’t BABIP. It’s not FB/HR%. No. In fact, something like infield fly ball percentage is not a repeatable skill. There’s even been evidence that something like being hit by a pitch is a repeatable “skill”. In all due respect to Brian Joura’s research (which says something completely different from your claim, for the record), and in admission that defensive metrics are still in their infancy, this statement is false. Fluctuations in UZR are wild but there’s strong correlation with rangeR, armR, and DRS and a player’s defensive ability. Furthermore, I’ve already accounted for a regression in dWAR to Lagares’ WAR for next year. It’s in the above comments. In addition, he will get more putouts and chances which allows him to save more runs over a full season opposed to 3/4 of one. Suggesting that defense is the skill least repeatable in the game of baseball is laughable. If you disagree, just ask Brian Joura himself and he will confirm your error.

        2.) Lagares was only that good because his RF and LF were that bad.

        Truth: Byrd and Eric Young Jr. were not bad. In fact they were very, well, average. Not players with “little ability to field”. It’s right around where the average outfielder is. Byrd was 0.2 dWAR, just above. Eric Young Jr. was 0.0. Your assessment, statistically, is wrong. Even if you count the few games guys like Duda and Brown got in there, your argument doesn’t work.

        3.) Lagares will get 30% fewer opportunities next year with Granderson and Chris Young flanking him.

        Reality: I have no idea where you came up with this number, so it’s hard to pick it apart aside from the fact that it’s a ludicrous statement and one that you will not be able to support.

        4.) Cruz’s home/away splits are one of the most overrated statistical arguments; they have no correlation to future success elsewhere.

        Facts: Cruz’s RC+ away from home is 95, or 5% below league average. Even if you give him 5% back for playing in front of fans cheering for him and in an environment in which he’s familiar, you end up with a player who is offensively league average. Here are more home away stats for you. His home numbers are going to be listed first, followed by his away numbers:

        ISO: .262 vs. .194

        BABIP: .325 vs. 279

        wRAA: 86.9 vs. -5.7 (this is a weighted stat. Negative means he’s below league average. Another indicator he’s below average away from Arlington)

        HR/FB%: 20.0% vs. 13.5%. This is why you can throw your homer projections out the window for Cruz. In Arlington, one of the best hitters parks in baseball, 1/5 of his fly balls turn into home runs. Away from Arlington, that ratio turns into fewer than 1 in every 7. That’s a lot of homers to take away.

        Average: .294 vs. .242

        OBP: .356 vs. .299

        Slugging %: .556 vs. .435

        Walk rate. Strikeout rate. Runs created. Line drive rate. wOBA. You name it, Nelson Cruz is worse on the road.

        Look, Nelson Cruz is a very VERY good hitter in Arlington. It’s why he’s been a favorite there and he has contributed in no small way to the excellent offenses Texas has had. Take him out of that stadium, perhaps out of the protection of the lineup, and he is barely a league average hitter, if that. This isn’t an overrated statistical argument, it’s a complete one. There’s no statistical indicator that he’s better at anything away from Texas and the numbers aren’t even close. They’re night and day. Everything I listed was statistically significant.

        5.) Cruz’s defense will be marginalized when he’s next to a good defensive CF.

        Truth: There’s no evidence for this. In fact, the Rangers played Craig Gentry (think their version of Juan Lagares..great fielder, fast, excellent range) 240 games next to Nelson Cruz since 2011 and Cruz, in those three years, was the 11th worst defensive outfielder in the game by dWAR. So this claim is also not true.

        6.) If you normalize Cruz’s production over 162 games, you get a guy who will hit 34 home runs.

        First, I think you mean extrapolate and if you extrapolate, you do arrive at this number. The reason it’s theoretically incorrect and statistically inconsistent is two fold:

        a.) Nelson Cruz has never played 162 games in a season and averages only 126 games since becoming a full time player.

        b.) The one season Cruz did come close (160 games in 2012), he hit only 24 home runs and slugged .460.

        7.) A third round pick is meaningless.

        Reality: Every draft pick in every round of every draft can fail. Reality: Every draft pick in every round of every draft can succeed in a big way. Truth: The 2014 player draft boasts one of the deeper classes in the past decade and a third round pick could conceivably net a player like Hunter Williams or Justin Smith. These are important picks and the way to build annual contending teams is in no small part to a depth of talent. If this signing were for the right player, I would be fine surrendering the pick. It’s not; so it isn’t. This franchise had the mentality of “draft picks don’t mean much” for years under Minaya and it led us, along with bad contracts to aging, declining players (oh hey like Nelson Cruz), to years of losing. You literally do not have to look outside of the very team you cheer for and the past decade to see all of the evidence for why not caring about a third round pick for a bad free agent signing is both foolish and why this statement is both false and misrepresented.

        8.) Over the next two years, Nelson Cruz will be worth more than Lagares.

        Well, Juan Lagares was worth more in 3/4 of a season with putrid offense than Nelson Cruz was in the previous two seasons combined in a ball park that aided his one positive tool. I have given you massive amounts of data above for why Nelson Cruz is not a good investment. Look at all of it to see why this statement is unlikely.

        David Groveman and Jerry Grote, you are clearly emotional over this subject. I have only presented data. All I have received from you in response is sarcasm, sensitivity, and unsupported arguments. This was not my intention when I posted on the article. I wanted to start a discourse about Nelson Cruz (like Raff said..not even about Lagares. This is about Cruz). Please do not take things so personally. I have attacked no one nor insulted anyone’s intelligence. This is just a debate and please learn the difference between discourse and insult. I have not once done the latter.

        • David Groveman
          February 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm


          You are making me root for Lagares failing because I would just like you to be proven wrong.

          Maybe save your comments for your article.

          Just a thought.

          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

            Editor’s Note – Comment removed for violating our Comment Policy

            • David Groveman
              February 19, 2014 at 8:39 pm

              I am not trying to silence your opinion or sensor you. I think you’ve made the points you were looking to.

              They are not mine.

        • Jerry Grote
          February 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm

          Shall we start with something simple?

          Repeatable skill:


          Here’s another fine defensive CF


          Those are the UZR/150s of the two better defensive CFers.

          Either one of two things are occurring here … either Bourne and Gomez are increasing and decreasing their skill sets so dramatically as to make Ken Landreaux jealous of their consistency, or the statistical means are deeply flawed.

          We know that Gomez and Bourne do not become great and terrible. However, what we can say is that their ability to impact the game from a defensive standpoint is a non-repeatable skill.

          Because, at the end of the day, playing defense is a component of team play – unlike hitting or to slightly lesser degree, pitching.

          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

            Want to know what that data says, though? That both center fielders are very good defensive players. You even said it yourself (“fine defensive CF”). I’ve already admitted to fluctuations and even predicted Lagares to not put up the insane dWAR he did last year. Over time, he’ll have better years than others. It happens. It especially happens offensively, too. Why ignore that? A player who hits .300/30/100/100 is not going to do that again the next year. If he hits .280/20/80/80, does he not possess a repeatable skill with the bat? That’s ludicrous. The fact that defensive stats are in their infancy does not mean they are useless.

            UZR fluctuations happen. Batting average fluctuations happen. David Wright is one of the best hitters to ever put on a Met uniform and even he had a bad season. One thing you see across his career, though, is generally positive offensive numbers. The above two examples demonstrate the same. Good defensive players will play good defense. It is absolutely a repeatable skill.

            And pitching isn’t a component of team play in baseball? You HAVE to be kidding me.

  13. David Groveman
    February 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    @ Jerry,

    We are on the same page and I think you supported things nicely.

    Thanks for reading

  14. Stephen Guilbert
    February 19, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    David Groveman,

    I have given you about two dozen concrete pieces of evidence that Nelson Cruz is not a good signing. They include, but are not limited to:

    Bad defense
    Declining power
    Poor away numbers
    Poor running/no speed
    Inconsistent playing time
    Cost of contract
    Cost of draft pick
    Insufficient evidence that he’s better than who’s already in camp

    You’ve given me…


    Instead, you’ve made patronizing remarks trying to silence me and been very sensitive to the arguments I have presented. Is it really hard for someone who writes for a website about the Mets to defend their opinions about their writing about the Mets? Why are you getting so defensive and being so sensitive to a debate? Why have you not offered a counter argument? Why have you not listed one statistical argument?

    • Captain America
      February 19, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      27 homers in 109 games is “declining power”?

      • Stephen Guilbert
        February 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        Annually declining ISO is declining power (cf. posts above). Power does not just equal homers, CA.

        • Captain America
          February 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

          Who on the mets will produce more power than Nelson Cruz in 2014?

          • Stephen Guilbert
            February 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

            If we take his career ISO away from Arlington we get .194. At least Wright and Granderson will be above that and both Duda and Ike have been close or above from year to year. Chris Young has and could do much better than that but it’s hard for me to predict with any certainty that he will. d’Arnaud in the minors averaged well above that as well, but again, tough to predict that with any confidence because he’s a young player with limited experience. So I would say somewhere between two and five players should match or exceed Cruz’s power output in 2014. Thoughts?

    • David Groveman
      February 19, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Glad we are keeping score. 🙂

  15. Name
    February 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I guess i’ll join in.

    Most people seem to think this is a Lagares production vs Cruz production when in fact it is much more. As much as people don’t want to believe, we live in a world with limited payrolls. If we had unlimited payrolls (and no other team did), of course, sign Cruz at whatever. Lagares is making zilch. Cruz, on the hand, is *asking* 10+ mil. Likewise, Lagares is non-guaranteed (as he can be optioned down the minors), Cruz is asking for a guaranteed multiyear commmitment. Signing Cruz for multiple years also reduces the possibility of the Mets and future free agents.

    Cost-benefit has to be considered in any valid analysis. It’s not only how much better one player will be over another, but also how much that is going to cost. And one has to make sure to include the opportunity cost as well. For what it’s worth, my personal break-even point for Cruz is 1 year 5 mil. Others may have higher/lower points based on their personal projection for the players, but in order for it to be a valid projection in my eyes one has to take into account the fact that payrolls aren’t unlimited (no matter how much you want to whine)

    Mike Trout is an awesome player. However, that doesn’t mean it would be wise to pay him $100 million a year for 20 years.

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