When it comes to difficult-to-project free agents, the guys who were in line for decent sized contracts but do not have an obvious fit anywhere else, the Mariners have been that default team. That momentum started when they signed second baseman Robinson Cano to a mega-deal, signaling a willingness to make bold moves, spend money, and try to win now.
Think about it: various rumors have linked them to Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Masahiro Tanaka, Fernando Rodney, and Nelson Cruz. So, kind of everyone. They did end up signing Rodney to bolster the back of their bullpen, and now their inevitable marriage with Cruz looks to be in the works.
Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that he hears a deal between the two parties is close:
Keep hearing from industry insiders that it’s a matter of time before #Mariners reach deal with free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz.
— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) February 8, 2014
While the notion of “lineup protection” can be overstated at times, the onus was on the Mariners from the moment Cano took pen to paper on his contract to add more punch to the lineup around him. Cruz comes at a significant cost, but his power production will make a significant difference for the Mariners.