Over the offseason the Seattle Mariners made one of the most widely-anticipated free market signings in years, adding Nelson Cruz on a pricey four-year deal. It was an apparent overpay for an aging all-bat slugger coming off his best season, a deal that would take him from a hitter’s paradise and drop him in an extreme pitcher’s park. It seemed stupid at the time, and it seemed stupid when Cruz opened his M’s tenure with a 0-fer.
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Ever since then it’s seemed great, however, as Cruz’s season has started off about as well as anyone could have possibly hoped. As of this writing he’s batting .304/.364/.554 with 21 home runs, good for a 156 wRC+. He trails only Albert Pujols and J.D. Martinez for the AL home run lead, and is fourth in wRC+ behind Mike Trout, Jason Kipnis, and Miguel Cabrera for the best wRC+ in the league.
Cruz has been fantastic, and from the get-go it seemed the only thing standing between him and an All-Star Game start was Kendrys Morales and the all-Royals-everywhere voting barrage. He made a late push, and he won! Nelson Cruz is going to start the All-Star game. He’s an All Star! He’s the starter! And he’s a Mariner!
It’s great. Great for Cruz, great for Seattle, and great for baseball. Morales is having a nice season, but he hasn’t been nearly what Cruz has been. Cruz has hardly even been a DH – he’s played tons of right field this year – but he’ll be the starting DH because he can’t field. Which is nice. The All-Star game is not a good place to watch Cruz play defense, since he sucks at defense. But he’s a great hitter, and that’s what will be in focus.
Cruz has the same team-leading WAR (1.9) as Felix Hernandez, and now he’ll get a chance to represent the team in Cincinnati. Felix will likely join him, though it seems unlikely that Kyle Seager will get his second straight well-earned All-Star bid. If the M’s only have two ASG representatives then hey, that’s fine. At least they both earned it.
Congratulations are due to Nelson Cruz, who’s had a completely insane first half that he will now be rewarded for. He’ll get seven chances to replicate that half-season with the Mariners, and there’s a fine chance he’ll never play at this level again. That’s fine – what he’s doing right now is probably unsustainable. We understand that. More importantly, we also understand that he’s been awesome. Long live Nelson Cruz.