As Sandy Alderson and his gaggle of geniuses meet to discuss strategy for the off-season, one could imagine that the words “outfield” and “shortstop” are bandied about quite often. The Mets have severe needs at those two positions, and there are two free agents out there who could help. The problem is, they were both suspended for their roles in the Biogenesis scandal.
Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz accepted 50-game bans for their actions. Their respective teams thought enough of them to activate them for the post season (actually, game 163 for the Rangers). But do the Mets think that highly of them? And should they think of them at all?
Both of these players have something that the Mets lack — big bats. Peralta has four 20+ home run seasons under his belt and had 11 when his 2013 was abruptly cut short. Cruz is a slugger, averaging around 25 homers per season over the last five years and with 27, was on his way to his best season when Bud Selig came calling.
But the big question is how much of this power came from the PEDs they were doing. Now that they will apparently be clean moving forward, will the power disappear?
Let’s look at Peralta first. Shortstops who can also hit are always at a premium. Even with a change in leagues and without artificial assistance, Peralta would probably hit around 10 home runs in Flushing. That’s more than the Mets have gotten from the position in the last two seasons combined.
One problem is that Peralta is said to be a terrible fielder. If the Mets decide to continue with Daniel Murphy at second, do they really want to have fielders at both positions who are not particularly adept? Remember how much better the Mets looked overall when Juan Lagares and Eric Young took over in the outfield? Do they really want to revert to Lucas Duda-type adventures in the field?
That aside, the Mets should take a chance on Peralta if the price is right, say about $2 million. He is still only 31 and should have a couple of more good years ahead of him.
Not Nelson Cruz, however. Cruz is one of these guys who “figured it out” late in his career; in Cruz’s case, at age 28 in 2009. Before that, he could not translate his minor league power to the majors. Did he figure it out only because of PEDs? That is not known, but it certainly is a possibility. If Cruz does not hit home runs, he is useless and the Mets cannot afford to take that chance given that he might still command a Melky Cabrera-type $8 million per season deal. Plus, Cruz turns 34 during the 2014 season. It is safe to say his best days would have behind him, anyway.
Sandy Alderson could hope to repeat his magic of turning a suspended player (Marlon Byrd) into a valuable piece. If he wants to try it again, he should do it with Jhonny Peralta instead of Nelson Cruz.