It feels like baseball is finally back… sure, spring training starts today, but much more exciting, the Nats have signed slugger Nelson Cruz to a one year deal with a mutual option.
Slugger is probably an overused term, but I’d say it’s pretty fitting for a man who’s nicknames include “Boomstick”, and hasn’t had fewer than 30 HRs in any non-COVID shortened season since 2013.
Sure, he was a “getting kinda old for baseball” 32 years old back in 2013, but he’s aged like fine Dominican Rum, and has hit 292 HRs since that season. He’s also gotten on base at an impressive clip over the years, and hit over .300 in both 2019 and 2020.
Coming into his age 42 season, that will certainly be a concern, and after a hot start in Minnesota last year, he was pretty awful with Tampa in the second half. But at least one set of statistics suggests it wasn’t necessarily a sign of bad things to come
The Nats lineup, with Juan Soto, Cruz, and Josh Bell, could legitimately produce 100 HRs in the 3-4-5 spots. If you pencil in some growth from Luis Garcia and Keibert Ruiz, and don’t see too much regression from Lane Thomas, suddenly, this offense looks very interesting. It even, I daresay, has the potential to be good!
Please don’t, however, look in the direction of the pitching staff, which has eleventy billion dollars tied up in Stephen Strasburg, who may or may not be healthy enough to be good, and Patrick Corbin, who was basically the worst starter in baseball last year (strangely, though, a guy who has the first name of Corbin was the best – Rizzo should see if he can switch them).
I just can’t see them getting enough to go right with that pitching staff to be a winner. But that’s ok, I still really like the idea of signing Nelson Cruz. And yes, I know he is a great candidate to trade later in the year. Much like in 2021, if he plays well, his contract, short as it is, will allow them to trade him for prospects, and speed up their rebuild. Which is smart, and they should get more guys like that this spring.
But more importantly, I like the idea of signing Nelson Cruz because he’s FUN. He hits monster dingers! He’s gonna be in the lineup next to 2 guys who do the same thing! This team may end up like Nelson Cruz’s 2009 Rangers – leading the league in runs scored (that’s probably a stretch) and runs allowed (more likely). And while some of that is painful, well, at least we’ll get to see some offense.